Louise a humble hero

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Email Shannon Smith
Picture: Ross Swanborough
Camera IconPicture: Ross Swanborough Credit: Picture: Ross Swanborough

Georgia Efford remembers the overwhelming feeling of relief when Albany’s Louise Anderton, pictured, pulled her from a rip at Middleton Beach last year.

More than a year later, Ms Anderton was honoured by Surf Life Saving WA with a Silver Medallion at the Coastal Bravery Awards.

In February 2018, Ms Efford, 80, who was in Albany with her Uthando doll-making group, was swimming at the popular beach when she realised she was being pulled out to sea by a rip.

In what Ms Efford calls extreme luck, Ms Anderton was also at Middleton Beach that morning — and she pulled her from the rip.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Ms Efford said the day she almost drowned changed her life.

“I remember thinking that there was a lot of seaweed and I could see a gap that I could go through, not realising then that it was a sign of a rip,” she said. “Before I knew it, I couldn’t swim back in because I was going out too fast, so I tried to swim diagonally but the rip was just so strong.

“I was getting further and further away from the beach and realising I wasn’t about to get back. It was having to master your inner strength to say you’ve got to try and relax. I had a spiritual experience of a voice saying ‘Now is the time for action, don’t give up’.” All of a sudden she said she could see a woman swimming towards her.

“There was just nothing to be said, it was like Louise just took control,” Ms Efford said.

Ms Anderton swam her back to the beach and carried her on to shore at a time that she described as feeling like she had no legs.

In the heat of the moment she asked her first name, not thinking to ask for her surname or contact number.

When she returned home to Perth, she wanted to thank the woman who saved her life, so she wrote a letter to the Albany Advertiser editor and spoke on local radio, asking for someone to put her in touch with the woman she knew only as Louise. A reader phoned Ms Efford and let her know they had heard a local schoolteacher, Louise Anderton, had rescued someone in similar circumstances, finally giving her the chance to thank her hero.

She said she was incredibly pleased to hear she was awarded for her bravery.

“Anything that shows Louise’s quiet nature, incredible strength, no drama and how she did it — I just thank her so often,” she said.

Ms Anderton, who has no lifesaving training, said receiving the bravery award made the experience feel real.

“I swim every day but that day I was swimming in a different pattern because it was a stormy, rough day, so I was more aware of what was going on around me — that’s why I heard her,” she said.

“I had a basic idea about what I should be doing, trying to keep her head above the water and get her to shore because I was worried she wasn’t going to survive. It took me about 25 minutes to get her in to shore and getting her through the weed was really difficult.

“It makes me realise how dangerous the water can be and perhaps we need to make more people more aware of the dangers, because people don’t expect it at Middleton Beach.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails