A YEAR 10 pupil from Knaphill has received an award for his bravery in saving a friend from drowning.

Riley Axtell, who attends St John the Baptist School in Woking, had gone to Desborough Island, on the River Thames near Walton Bridge, for a swim.

“It was about 5.30pm, and while we were in the water one of my friends swam to the other side of the river on his own, without saying anything to anyone,” Riley said.

“Luckily, I was watching him and after a minute or so on the other side he decided to swim back to us. As the current quickly strengthened he started to get tired, and after swimming halfway he stopped as he had no energy to go any further.

“His head began to dip under and as he gasped for a breath he was calling out ‘help, help, help’.

“I immediately power swam to him, while shouting ‘get him, get him!’ Everyone was looking over but had no idea what was going on. When I finally reached him, he told me he had no energy.

“Using the skills I’ve been taught at snorkeling, I kept a foot away from him so he couldn't grab on to me and pull me down as well.

 “I told him to stay calm and just keep breathing, I then swam round him and grabbed him by the chin and pushed his back up to the surface. He laid on my front and I told him to keep calm once again.

“He began to get his breath back and calmed down while I kept his head up and started to swim back to our group, shouting ‘come help’. My friends realised this was no joke and swam and helped bring him back."

The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Liam Lyons, honoured Riley’s bravery and swift action as he saw him presented with a certificate of recognition.

“Riley used the lifesaving skills he learnt at Woking Snorkel and Scuba Club to save his friend from drowning, and I am very pleased to recognise Riley’s bravery,” Cllr Lyons said. “His quick thinking clearly helped keep someone safe that day.

“As I am currently self-isolating, I attended the presentation in the Civic Offices virtually, but Cllr Saj Hussain, Deputy Mayor, attended in person.”

Lindsey Bostock-Cross, membership secretary of the Woking Snorkel and Scuba Club, added her own tribute.

“We are so proud of Riley,” she said. “We teach life-saving, but being taught these skills in a swimming pool, where the person you are saving is just playing a role, is very different from being able to be cool, calm and collected and using them in a situation where someone is in real danger of dying.

“Riley has been a member here for three years, and we are delighted that he has been recognised for his bravery, especially as he is just 15.”

The club is based at Pool in the Park, in Woking, and holds sessions on Saturday mornings. Members train in the pool but also have open-water sessions at local lakes and in the sea at Swanage. 

“We have a strong emphasis on safety and highlight just how easy it is to get into trouble in water,” Lindsey added. “Riley understood that, and it helped him save a life.”

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