Woman in front of outdoor pool

Pool staff honoured for helping save lives

05 Jan 2023

Two Blue Mountains City Council lifeguards who performed CPR on an unresponsive child, and a pool team leader whose exceptional commitment to safety and service has seen Learn To Swim numbers flourish, have been honoured at the recent NSW Aquatic Recreation Institute Industry Awards.

Hamish Clark and Charlie Griffith were named Lifeguard of the Year Award winners for their fast actions to save the seven-year-old at Blackheath Pool in February 2022, while Rachel Fiddling won Duty Manager of the Year for her tireless work at Glenbrook Pool over several years.

Hamish was on the pool deck and Charlie was serving a customer at the gate on 17 February last year when the boy, who had been swimming in the pool, became unresponsive.

“I didn’t really think of anything else, I just reacted. All of a sudden I just knew what to do,” Hamish, who began CPR on the child, said.

Charlie – a junior lifeguard, who had not yet turned 18 when the incident occurred – rushed oxygen and a defibrillator to the scene, and the two helped bring the child back to consciousness with the assistance of a bystander.

“Once we put the oxygen on, gave it a pump, and the boy threw up, he was OK,” Charlie said.

The distressed child was conscious and sitting with his parents when the ambulance officers arrived, and he was taken to hospital. Ambulance staff noted the great response that was provided

The child made a full recovery, and his family have thanked Hamish and Charlie for their quick actions.

Hamish and Charlie thanked members of the public for their help both during and after the incident.

Members of the public at the pool that day helped keep the family calm and supported Charlie and I after the event, and ultimately helped with the successful care of the boy as a whole,” Hamish said.

Starting as a Learn To Swim instructor at Glenbrook six years ago, Rachel
continued to increase her skills to take on various roles as a lifeguard, aquatic supervisor, and now team leader.

Her professional and friendly nature has seen the centre flourish post-COVID, with the Learn To Swim program now boasting in excess of 800 enrolments - no mean feat for an outdoor facility in the Blue Mountains.

Royal Life Saving statistics from this year point to a 15 per cent increase in drowning deaths compared to the previous year, something Rachel felt she could help address.

“I didn’t want to see that statistic grow,” Rachel said. “I wanted to make sure as many kids as possible had an opportunity for swimming lessons.

“I genuinely love teaching Learn To Swim. It’s such a nice environment, and I’m teaching siblings from the eldest to the youngest now.

“It’s a great feeling to be the first person to hit those [Learn To Swim] numbers at Glenbrook, it’s something very special and I am really proud of that.”

Rachel is also proud of helping to build a supportive workplace.

“I’m trying to make it a nice, welcoming place. There’s nothing worse than feeling unsupported and I’d never want my staff to feel that way,” Rachel said.

Karl Kreiss, Program Leader Leisure and Aquatic Centres, nominated Council staff for this year’s awards, and congratulated the trio on their success.

“It’s great to see Hamish and Charlie’s training, skills and preparation paid off under intense pressure, and Rachel has always shown great dedication to her centre,” he said. “We also cannot thank the patrons enough for their assistance.

“It is wonderful to see that the Blue Mountains Leisure Centre staff are winning such prestigious awards.”

PHOTOS: Glenbrook Pool Manager Rachel Fiddling; (Homepage) Lifeguards Hamish Clark and Charlie Griffith and Program Leader Leisure and Aquatic Centres Karl Kreiss at BMCC’s Katoomba Aquatic Centre.

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