Hero mate waited three hours in croc-infested creek
FOR almost three hours Gavin Colquhoun and injured mate Bill were in waist-deep, crocodile-infested water waiting for help.
Bill couldn't get out of the water, after falling down a 10m cliff in to St Helen's Creek when a fence he was leaning on gave way.
He was with a group of mates who heard the splash when Bill went into the water thinking it was a big fish.
But it wasn't until their mate Russell, yelled "Bill's gone over the bank" that Gavin, 57, ignored the warnings and previous sightings of 14-foot crocodiles in the water to dive in and save his friend and older cousin.
Neither man could climb back out of the water, so then had to wait for emergency crews to arrive.
"He had no chance of walking up the bank," he said. "It's a hell of a climb when you are in a good condition."
Ironically 12 months ago, Gavin had told his cousin he wouldn't dare dive into the infested crocodile creek if he ever fell in.
"He made a liar out of me," Gavin quipped.
"I just grabbed him rolled him over and got him under the chin and dragged him over to the side of the bank," Gavin recalled. "I thought Bill wouldn't make it, at first he wasn't breathing. He sucked a whole heap of water, I knocked that out of him."
Moments after Gavin was alerted to the splash, he rushed to the edge of the river and shone the light into the darkness, where he saw Bill's face down in the water. He jumped in to the creek, with not a second thought.
Gavin who suffers from osteoporosis, was thrown a lifeline after "an hour or so" in the water.
He noticed a bit of pipe attached to a piece of concrete that had become exposed as the tide dropped down further.
"I got one of the boys up the top to throw me down a rope and I put it around under Bill's arm and tied him to the pipe and dragged him up so as the tide went out he stayed up on the dry ground," he said.
"Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to hold him there."
At first, Gavin didn't even think of the possibility of crocodiles in the creek.
"I was thinking about saving my cousin, all I could think of was, you're not going to die on me now you bastard.
"It wasn't until one of the other blokes yelled out from up top, 'I'll shine the torch around and make sure there are no crocodiles'."
Gavin frequents the creek regularly, and just about every time sees a 14 foot crocodile.
"I could nearly go down there every high tide and take a photo of them swimming across the top of the water, within 50-100 yards of where we were in the creek that night."
Gavin said Bill questioned his decision to go in after him that night, but "(but) how can you watch your best mate drown?" he asked.
"We can laugh about it, but to actually sit down and talk about what happened that night, it's a bit tender."
Everyone played their role in that night, he said. Russell had to go and find reception, while Leon, the other man at the shack, held the torch while they waited for emergency services.
Bill doesn't remember much about the night and was released by the Mackay Base Hospital a day later with only a sore back and a headache from the impact from the fall.
If it wasn't for Gavin, "I could have been in a box by now," he said.