Esperance surfer praised for back-to-back rip rescues at WA’s West Beach
Fletcher Slee was preparing to leave West Beach, near Esperance on WA’s south coast, when he took one last look at the sea.
Key Points: Fletcher Slee is a qualified lifeguard and works as a pool operator. West Beach was closed on Monday after four people sat in crevasse. People took to social media to thank Mr Slee for his rescue efforts
The 22-year-old saw two boys in trouble in the water.
The boys explored a narrow strip of the reef, which extends into the water, before they disembarked on Monday morning and got caught in a crevasse.
Mr. Slee said that one managed to get in, but the other was quickly swimming freestyle upstream.
“That’s when I started grabbing my board and jumping right over there and got him out,” he said.
Mr Slee, a qualified lifeguard who works as a pool operator and a former member of the Esperance Surf Life Saving Club, helped the boy onto the board.
The pair swam back to shore together, where the boy rejoined his friend.
Mr Slee said the boys were local residents and around 12 to 14 years old.
After checking that they were okay, Mr. Slee said he helped the pair brush up on their skills, giving them “a little beach safety 101.”
“Just to indicate where the rips are, what to pay attention to and make sure that when they do go to the beach, there is someone watching them and they assess the water before they jump in,” he said.
But Mr. Slee’s work was not done for the day.
Esperance’s West Beach was closed yesterday due to the dangerous rip. (ABC Esperance: Emily Smith)Hero comes to the second rescue
As he made his way back up the steep stairs to the parking lot, his friends warned him that more people were in danger.
“They managed to point out to me where two more swimmers were caught in a rip that started at First Beach … on the way around the reef,” he said.
Mr. Slee’s friends ran his plate to him. Then he went back to help.
This time Mr Slee said he spoke to the girls and showed them how to get back in.
“They managed to get into the inlet and then swim from its side back to shore,” he said.
He said the girls were local and looked about 16 years old.
Fletcher Slee says a big swell and good weather can be a dangerous combination in Esperance. (ABC Esperance: Emily Smith)
Mr Slee put the twin incidents down to big swells and beautiful weather.
“It’s never a good combination,” he said.
“And there were some flash fractures that developed.”
He believed closing the beach was a good decision.
“I believe it was a very good call because it was very dangerous weather,” Mr Slee said.
“Having tourists in town who may not have as much knowledge as we do – it could have gotten us into a lot more trouble.”
‘a dead champion’
Word of Mr Slee’s efforts spread quickly around the city, especially after people took to social media to thank him.
“A big shout out to Fletcher. A young man who risked his own life not once, but twice to help when 4 people were sucked in or out to sea,” one post read.
“Scary to watch from above.
“Fletcher, if you see this post, I want you to know that you are a dead end champion.
Another post also praised his efforts.
“Hats off to the young man who went out and saved a young kid with his surfboard that we saw down there this morning,” it said.
“He was an absolute legend.”
Mr Slee said he was humbled by the response.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did,” he said.
“I just did my part and made sure that these people who did get into trouble were safe.
“Of course I love all the kind words, and I’m really grateful and appreciate it.
“I’m really grateful that those people were safe [and] that we managed to get to the beach today.”
The Goldfields-Esperance Police District posted on Facebook two days ago saying it had attended three separate incidents over the past five days for people caught in rips, with two of those at West Beach.
Find more local news