Heroic rescue of young Wellington woman after she falls off wharf

A young woman stripped to her underwear and jumped into Wellington Harbour early Saturday morning to rescue a woman who’d accidentally fallen in, before taking the grateful stranger to McDonald’s for a hot chocolate laced with extra marshmallows.

Courtney Beck thought she was going to die when she accidentally fell into Wellington Harbour, near The Wellington Diving Board, after becoming separated from her friends while on a night out in the central city.

But, Beck told the Herald, her life was saved by Ashleigh Brown, the woman she is now calling “an angel”.

The Herald couldn’t contact Brown, but the Wellington woman identified herself as Beck’s rescuer on a Vic Deals’ Facebook page post by Beck publicly thanking her.

The 21-year-old had been out clubbing when she decided soon after midnight she wanted to look at the water, Beck told the Herald.

Instead, she ended up in it, hitting her head on a beam as she fell an estimated two or three metres.

“I’m lucky I didn’t get knocked out. I went under for a minute, and I didn’t know which way was up.”

Paddling to a shell-covered beam, Beck – who’s afraid of deep water – held on, cutting herself as she struggled in the water with the weight of her boots and jacket.

“I was screaming … ‘Help, help me. I’m in the water’. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is the end of my life’,” said Beck, who thought about her family – especially her 4-year-old sister – to keep herself going.

It was about 10 minutes before Brown, with help from a male friend named James, heard Beck’s screams.

“They were both telling me to, ‘Just breathe’ and to ‘Calm down – we’re here, we’re going to get you out’.”

Shining a torch on a nearby ladder, the pair guided Beck to it, but when James tried to then pull Beck out she couldn’t feel her body and had no strength left to help him.

“I was so freezing. I went numb.”

So Brown stripped to her underwear and went into the water, Beck said.

“She jumped in and went under me and boosted me up to the ladder.”

Out of the water after a rescue she estimated took about 20 minutes, Beck flopped onto the ground as her rescuers gave her some of their own clothes, put her under their arms and walked to nearby Te Papa McDonalds.

It was then the realisation of her close call sunk in for Beck.

“I’ve never loved life so much [as in that moment]. I’m so grateful to her … she’s an angel, literally.

“She even bought me a hot chocolate, and put extra marshmallows in it, because she’s amazing.”

Her rescuers thought about calling an ambulance, Beck said, before calling the Wainuiomata factory worker’s mum instead.

“She said, ‘We found your daughter in the sea, meet us at Te Papa McDonalds’. My mum got here so quick … I’ve never seen my mum hug me so much in my life.”

After a hot bath, a good sleep and some TLC from mum she was ok – if still a bit shaken.

She’s telling her story to acknowledge the efforts of Brown and James. And as a warning to others enjoying nights out.

“Don’t go alone on the wharf when you’ve had a drink.”

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