(Supplied: Tomas West)
Coffs Harbour 2450 Photo:
Woolgoolga teenagers Patrick Monkton and Tomas West said they were in the right place at the right time.
ABC Coffs Coast
July 02, 2018 16:53:10
“I was honestly numb. The teenage rescuers of a 71-year-old Melbourne man who broke his neck while bodysurfing at a northern NSW beach have been tracked down and thanked through a local Facebook group.The quick-thinking boys, Tomas West, 16, and his friend Patrick Monkton, 19, carefully placed Colin Barker onto a surfboard and paddled him to shore after he was dumped by a powerful wave.But through the drama of the rescue five weeks ago, Mr Barker did not get the boys’ names of the boys.Moved by the teenagers’ actions, Mr Barker’s daughter Natalie Barker-Dawson reached out on a community Facebook page over the weekend to try and locate them.Within 24 hours, the family was having a heartfelt conversation over Facebook Messenger.”I wanted to thank them for their actions that saved [both] my dad’s life and my family the grief of losing a wonderful father and grandfather,” Ms Barker-Dawson said.Mr Barker and wife Judy even tried offering the teenagers a reward, but both refused. We wouldn’t go out in a bigger swell and heavier swell,” Tomas said.”It did change us for a bit, but now we’re back to our normal selves.”Tomas encouraged people to swim and surf in groups and look out for one another.”I always keep an eye on Pat now, watch him if he catches a bigger wave just to make sure he comes up good,” he said. There were no real thoughts going through my head,” she said.But she said she felt gratitude and love for the two boys who saved her husband.”It’s a brave and courageous thing they’ve done.”
Colin Barker will make a full recovery and is currently holidaying with his wife in a caravan (Supplied: Kerrie Van Eeken)
Safety firstSince the incident, the teenagers said they were more cautious on the water.”After it first happened it kind of shook us. We just felt like that’s something anyone would have done in that situation,” Mr Monkton said.Smashed by waveThe incident happened when Mr Barker was vacationing with his wife in the seaside village of Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour.He was enjoying a dip when a powerful wave smacked his head into the sand and smashed four vertebrae in his spinal cord.Mr Barker managed to stand, but not with his neck intact.”My head felt like a big pumpkin sitting on my shoulders,” he said.”I was expecting to die. Photo:
Mr Barker’s daughter reached out to the Coffs Harbour community to help locate her father’s saviours (Facebook: Coffs Harbour Sell Swap and Buy)
“We didn’t feel like we needed a reward for it. I’m looking at life with a different perspective than I used to,” Mr Barker said.Gratitude feltMs Barker said it was not until a few days later the family realised he could have become a quadriplegic. Photo:
An X-ray of Colin’s face and neck after the accident (Supplied: Kerrie Van Eeken)
“We were just surfing for a bit and then I turned around and saw this guy struggling, holding his head all floppy … he looked like he was having a heart attack,” Mr Monkton said.”Everything just happened so fast and he just mumbled the number plate of a caravan and we somehow found it.”Mr Barker was rushed to Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, where doctors said he had to be taken to Newcastle due to the severity of his injuries.His neck was fused in surgery and he is now in recovery with full movement of his arms and legs.”I’ve used eight of my nine lives. I didn’t think I’d survive.”Rushed to hospitalTomas and Mr Monkton were nearby when they saw Mr Barker raising his hands for help.