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Students save drowning woman in early morning beach drama

Four people standing on the beach

University of St Andrews students taking part in the annual Raisin Weekend celebrations helped save the life of an elderly woman drowning in the sea off East Sands, St Andrews, early on Sunday morning, October 28th 2012.

An academic family comprised of students Hannah Cope, Min Kim, Rachel Mansley, David Juhasz, Michael Helley, Rebecca Hjemdahl and Jack Somerville had gone to the beach about 7.15 a.m. for an early Raisin Sunday swim when they were approached by a dog walker who believed she had spotted a person in difficulty off shore, close to the end of the old pier.

The dog walker asked the students if they had a mobile phone to call for help – but with little hesitation the St Andreans took to the water to try to reach the drowning woman.

Hannah Cope, a first year Sustainable Development student from New York and a member of the St Andrews University swimming team, was first to reach the lady and was able to pull her to shore. Hannah’s friends, including Min Kim, Rachel, Jack and Michael who are all students in the School of Medicine, began resuscitation and first aid, stripping the woman’s wet clothes and trying to keep her warm using their own dry clothing, jackets and towels.

“She was unresponsive and barely breathing,” said Hannah. “She would blink occasionally but she was very hypothermic and my friends were doing everything they could to keep her warm until the paramedics could get there.

“We wrapped her up with towels and warm clothes as best we could.

“The paramedics arrived and worked on her for a quite a while until they had stabilised her condition, then they took her away to hospital. “We’ve all been thinking about her and wondering how she is and hoping that she is OK. Our thoughts are with her and her husband.”

Min Kim, a medical student and the academic mother of the family, said:

“The dog walker had first asked us if we knew the person who was in the water or whether it was some sort of doll, thinking that it was a Raisin prank.

“This was due to the fact that the drowning woman was barely moving and did not seem to be breathing. Everyone was really brave and stayed composed as we tried to keep her conscious and waited for the paramedics.

“She started coughing up water as she warmed up, which was a good sign. I’m glad we were able to help her.

“There was no one else at the time on the beach and if we weren’t there, it would have taken a significant amount of time to get help – time that might have been quite vital.”

Min and Hannah and their friends modestly kept quiet about their involvement in the rescue. The University authorities were only made aware of the students’ actions four days after the incident.

The University understands that the lady was admitted to hospital in Dundee where her condition has improved.

ENDS

Issued by the University of St Andrews.

Contact the Press Office on 01334 462244/2530 or email niall.scott@st-andrews.ac.uk

Ref: (RaisinRescue021112)

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