Heroic effort by Seychellois man saves 5 people in distress at sea

A Seychellois man is being called a hero after he saved two women, both US nationals, and three men in distress at sea at Anse Forbans in the south of Mahe, the main island, on Friday.

Nicholas Barra, 42, told SNA one of his friends called him for help.

At first I thought [my friend's] boat was sinking, but when I arrived on the beach and looked to the sea, I saw two canoes and people screaming for help, Barra recounted.

Barra said he tried searching for a buoy or rope that could be of help, but it was to no avail.

I instantly removed some of my clothes and swam approximately 25 meters away from the shore to reach the people in distress.

A former lifeguard, Barra said as he got closer to the scene, he saw three men, two women, and two capsized canoes in the water.

Barra told SNA, I managed to get one of the women, and the three men, who were in their life ring, on one of the capsized canoes.

The former life guard said he was heading for the shore when the woman asked him to go back and help her friend, who was in a life ring holding on to the other canoe.

I swam back towards the other woman, and I managed to get her on the canoe, Barra recounted. At that point, we got caught up in a huge wave, which dragged us both under the water. When I resurfaced, I tried to search for the woman thinking that I had already lost her. Fortunately, after what seemed like minutes, she came up to the surface groping to the canoe.

As for the other canoe with the other four people, the strong current had already driven it back towards him, said Barra, and he had to use a rope that was attached to one of the life rings to tie the canoes together.

I tried to swim back to the shore, but the current was too strong, and it was draining me out, Barra said. After so much effort, I stopped fighting, and let the current drag us amongst a pile of rocks on the shores.

On the shore, onlookers helped the former lifeguard pull out the people from the water. The police and an ambulance were already on the scene, he said.

An eyewitness, Ryan Dubois, said the incident happened at around 4:30 p.m. and if it were not for Barra, the four people would not have reached the shore.

The man was very courageous. He struggled for more than five minutes in the water to get the distressed ashore, said Dubois.

According to Dubois, who was present at the beginning of the incident, the two US nationals were swimming close to the shore before they were dragged out to sea by the current. The three men were security guards from the Double Tree resort who had paddled out to sea to rescue the two US nationals.

Barra said that today I am being referred to as a hero, but for me, it was all about doing the right thing that anybody else would have done if I was in that same situation.

He added that he has once talked to the authorities in Seychelles to set up a life guard system in the south as the seas can get very rough in the month of July.

Seychelles -- an 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean -- surrounded by an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.3 million square kilometres � has not been spared from accidents at sea.

Several incidents have been reported this year, which included both foreign nationals and locals, one in which two Seychellois drowned. Last year, three people died after the boat they were travelling in capsized off the coast of La Digue island in August.

The island nation has a tropical climate and starting from the month of July, it gets very windy with the south-east trade wind. Conditions at sea can get very rough, especially along the coast.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

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