'Very mixed emotions' after bravery recognition
GYMPIE man Adam Whitehouse still looks back with sadness on the day he saved one boy but tragically could not save another.
"It still feels like it was yesterday,” Mr Whitehouse said after learning he is to be a recipient of a police appreciation award for his bravery.
The award presentation will take place at Bokarina on the Sunshine Coast on August 29, according to police Superintendent Darryl Johnson.
Mr Whitehouse and his mate Graeme Spillman have been changed forever by the tragedy they experienced first-hand at Norman Point in February last year, when one of the boys they were trying to rescue lost his life before their eyes.
"It was such a lovely day - the sun was shining, children were playing and it turned out to be a horrible tragedy,” Mr Spillman told The Gympie Times' deputy editor Frances Klein in January.
Mr Spillman was in his boat when he saw a man and two boys splashing and waving.
He said it did not immediately register that this was not just a father playing with his children.
That was before he saw all three quickly become distant dots as they were sucked out into the Snapper Creek channel.
Minutes before, Mr Whitehouse, a stranger passing by, had swum out to the two young boys who had been knocked off a floatie ring.
Mr Spillman sped to the struggling group while Mr Whitehouse battled to hold both boys up in the water.
Mr Whitehouse can never forget what happened next, after his own strength left him.
"I promised him he wouldn't drown because he was crying.”
Mr Whitehouse said later it was a promise he was unable to keep.
"And that sticks in my head a lot,” he said.
Mr Whitehouse says he has a lot of trouble forgiving himself for breaking that promise.
Mr Spillman said he did not know how to feel about the tragedy or the public recognition which has come since.
The two men met for the first time in the moments when Mr Spillman hauled Mr Whitehouse from the water, moments before he would have gone under himself as he clung to the two boys.
They have become fast friends and now work alongside each other at Edwards Transport.
"We're the best of mates. We can talk to each other about anything,” Mr Spillman said.
"I still have very mixed emotions about it,” Mr Whitehouse said yesterday.