TV star in brush with death

THEY branded him not tough enough to last in outback Australia.

But reality TV chopper pilot Jeff O'Connor has survived a potentially lethal ocean encounter.

The fresh-faced, and single, Maroochydore lifesaver, 21, was enjoying a rare family break with his parents and younger brother Stephen in the Whitsundays a fortnight ago.

Jeff and Stephen were swimming when the TV star was stung on the face, neck and stomach by an Irukandji jellyfish.

Jeff said he thought it was a bluebottle and just brushed it off.

“We then got on to the beach and I was feeling a bit of lower back pain, which my brother was giving me a bit of stick about, so I went back to the boat,” he said back home at Maroochydore yesterday.

What followed was a series of “big blanks” where family and friends said Jeff was convulsing and vomiting. He was taken to Hamilton Island and then airlifted to Mackay.

“Luckily, I've had no scarring,” Jeff said.

Lucky indeed, as he is fast securing a television career. He will be back on screens later this year with the second series of Channel 10's Keeping Up with the Joneses, despite farmer Milton Jones's early predictions that the larrikin was not up to the task.

Jeff also stars in an upcoming National Geographic television series, Bush Cowboy, with Matt Wright, an Australian animal conservationist.

He leaves next month for Western Australia for a five-month contract flying chartered helicopter tours over the Kimberleys.