Solar rescue

BY day Mark Loader fishes rubbish out of waterways, but on Saturday night he saved a woman’s life after she jumped off the Narrows Bridge into the icy Swan River.

The South Fremantle local was skippering the solar powered boat, Ellie J, from the Little Ferry Company.

It’s a side gig to his business Cleanamarina, which uses a solar boat to skim garbage out of the river.

He had finished his scheduled tour, but decided to give the eight passengers onboard a bonus sail, and at about 6.45pm they spotted police cars and lights on the Narrows Bridge.

• Mark Loader helps the Ellie J on her way; he’d used the boat to rescue a woman from the Swan River on Saturday night. Photos by Steve Grant

Flashing light

“I thought they’d pulled someone over,” Mr Loader says.

“I turned the boat around, but as we were going under the bridge someone yelled ‘She’s over there somewhere!’

“They said ‘There was a girl…she’s jumped off the bridge!’

“I turned the boat around and went up past the brewery. I saw a police boat with a flashing light doing a search pattern. We got everyone to turn the music off and be quiet.”

Mr Loader says the quietness of the electric boat meant they could just make out a sound.

Hypothermic

“Our little solar ferry meant that we could hear her…I heard this really faint moan, probably 50 to 100m away initially. It looked like two floats in the water, half sunk. It was just a circle of a face, she was that low in the water, and one of her hands.”

The woman was unresponsive when the passengers on the boat held out the boat hook for her to grab, and they had to pull her aboard by her clothing.

“She was close to hypothermic,” Mr Loader says. “She was just out of it because she’d been in the water too long.”

WA Police has confirmed the woman survived. “She was so close to going under the water,” Mr Loader says. “I’d say she had minutes.”

by DAVID BELL

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