Monday, 12 March 2012

Rob Pyne's chance meeting with life saver

Laura Packham
Monday, March 12, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Remember me?: Cr Rob Pyne met Barry O’Brien, who helped save his life when he broke his neck 21 years ago, while campaigning for re-election. Picture: MARC McCORMACK

Fate or coincidence? Either way, when Cr Rob Pyne knocked on Barry O'Brien's door recently, he was stunned to come face-to-face with the man who helped save his life 21 years ago.

Cr Pyne was doorknocking at White Rock as part of his local government re-election campaign.It was the first time the pair had met since the accident, which left Cr Pyne a quadriplegic. "He opened the door and said, ‘You wouldn’t remember me, but my son and I were fishing and we came to help you the day you broke your neck’," Cr Pyne said.  "It was 21 years ago and was a bit of a haze, so I certainly didn’t recognise him."

Mr O’Brien was equally astonished by the chance meeting and said he still had the tinnie he used in the rescue. "I’ve never spoken to him from the day it happened," Mr O’Brien said.
"I thought he may not want to relive the whole thing and have it bang around in his mind, so I just left it."

Cr Pyne had been sailing with his now wife, Jenny, and her parents on Trinity Inlet on December 1, 1991, when he dived from the boat into shallow water. "I was overcome by the heat and I dived into the water, only to hit my head on a sandbank," he said. "I floated face down in the water, unable to breathe, and I was rolled onto my back, with paralysis taking over my limbs. "My hand came over into my face and from that second on I knew things had changed – it felt like someone else’s hand."

Mr O’Brien said the event was something he was never likely to forget. Mr O’Brien had been fishing with his seven-year-old son on Trinity Inlet, when he noticed what he thought was a boat in distress. "When we arrived, Rob was in the water and the tide was coming in," he said.

After trying to pull the man on to his tinnie, Mr O’Brien used a spare sail to try to roll Cr Pyne on to the deck of the other boat. "He was a fairly big lad but we got the sail under him and rolled him on to the deck – he was in a terrible amount of pain and he was screaming out."

Mr O’Brien then travelled back to the channel and flagged down a trawler to radio for help.
Mr Pyne said he was deeply grateful to Mr O’Brien and was proud there were people like him in the community who would not think twice about helping a stranger.
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