Child saved, uncle lost in Murray River drama

Members of the public with jet-skis help police with the search on Saturday. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN
Members of the public with jet-skis help police with the search on Saturday. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

AN Albury man who plucked a six-year-old girl from the arms of the man now missing in the Murray River has told of his desperate attempts to save both lives.

Dylan McGrath, 25, arrived at the popular swimming spot near the Waterworks with a friend at 4.30pm on Saturday.

It was supposed to be a typical summer afternoon by the river, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.

“We just jumped in and they followed about 20 metres behind us, he had the girl on his shoulders, and we got to the bend in the river and I heard the girl screaming,” he said.

“I turned around and he was sort of bobbing up and down, trying to hold the girl up out of the water, and I yelled out to see if he was all right and I got no reply.

“I just started swimming out towards them because I felt something was wrong.”

By the time he reached the stricken pair, Mr McGrath said the man was still having difficulty staying afloat but he managed to rescue the young girl, who police say is the missing man’s niece.

“I grabbed the girl and I asked him again if he was all right and he sort of nodded his head but I yelled out to my mate to swim out to him,” he said.

“By the time my mate got out to him, he’d gone under.

“I was trying to get him to hold my arm and at the same time I had the girl, so it was just hard to hold him up, he just went under.”

Mr McGrath said he swam towards the Waterworks bridge to bring the girl to safety and then began scouring the willows with his friend in an attempt to locate the man, but they did not see him again.

“We tried all we could, we went up and down the bank a few times and they (the police) have told us to keep out of the water now, it’s up to them,” he said.

Speaking as the ambulance helicopter circled overhead late on Saturday, Mr McGrath said he went to primary school with the missing man but they hadn’t spoken in years.

“It took a while to sink in what was actually happening, time’s gone pretty quick,” he said.

“I remember just screaming out for someone to call police and an ambulance.”

Despite saving the girl’s life, Mr McGrath played down his rescue.

“I think anyone would do it,” he said.