REAL LIFE

Trapped in an underwater tomb: How Phoebe, 17, survived against the odds

Phoebe was minutes away from death...
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Here, Phoebe, 17, tells the story in her own words…

Taking a deep breath, I tried to control my nerves.

It was a sunny Sunday in February and I was getting ready to race against my dad Lennart and another competitor, Russell, in a senior speedboat race.

Three years of competitions meant I had plenty of experience, but this was my first time in this particular category.

‘How about giving it a go, Phoebe?’ Dad had suggested when one of the racers dropped out.

‘Sure!’ I’d agreed.

Loving the speed and adrenaline, I was always up for a new challenge.

My usual speedboat wasn’t working, so I was borrowing a lighter one, which went much faster.

Standing in position, I waited for the signal…

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I’ve had a second chance at life (Credit: Supplied)

Then I pressed my foot down on the accelerator and zoomed across the water.

I felt on top of the world as I navigated the triangle-shaped track, the wind blowing in my hair.

Dad and Russell were way ahead of me, but I didn’t mind.

The waves had become choppy, so I just focused on taking it easy.

But as I started to reach the second to last corner of the final lap, the boat suddenly hit a wave.

This had happened in the past without any problems.

The wind was so strong though, that the boat suddenly flipped upside down.

I was pushed down under the water and trapped beneath the vessel.

Struggling to breathe, I panicked as I desperately tried to get out.

But the kill switch lanyard on my life jacket had caught onto the gear lever and every time I started to float to the top, it dragged me back down.

I could die here, I thought in horror. I’m trapped in an underwater tomb.

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I loved competing (Credit: Supplied)

Using all my strength, I managed to push myself to the surface of the water.

Spluttering, I tried to get my breath back as I clutched onto the side 
of the boat.

But it was sinking and pulling me back under.

As I started to drown, a rescuer appeared, handing me 
an oxygen mask.

Fumbling, I managed to slip it on, but everything 
was so hazy that I knocked it off.

Suddenly, everything went black…

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Me and my mum today (Credit: Supplied)

Here, Phoebe’s mum Alison, 51, continues the story…

Running in to the Royal Perth Hospital, I found Phoebe’s dad.

‘We were racing and her boat suddenly capsized,’ Lennart said. ‘When the rescuers found her she was blue.’

The diver had found some kind of super-human strength to rip the gear lever mounting bracket off the hull of the boat to free her lifeless body.

‘The doctors don’t know 
if she’s going to make it,’ Lennart said.

Because Phoebe had been trapped without oxygen for at least one minute, there was a chance she might be brain-damaged.

She’d been put into an induced coma and placed on a cool mat to bring her body temperature right down, giving the brain the best chance to recover.

Seeing my girl unconscious in intensive care, I burst into tears.

‘Come on Phoebe, you need to fight this,’ I urged her.

Phoebe had a sister Kayla, 27, and a brother, Daniel, 19, and they were all so close.

Two days later, on the Tuesday morning, doctors tried to wake Phoebe.

She opened her eyes a few times but wasn’t reacting to anything.

‘We just have to keep positive,’ Lennart said.

One of the nurses encouraged us to talk to her.

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My injuries from the lanyard (Credit: Supplied)

‘It might seem a bit silly, but so many patients respond to their loved ones’ voices,’ she explained.

I decided to chat to her about her beloved cat, Mimi.

‘Does Mimi have any food in the house?’ I asked, holding my girl’s hand.

Suddenly, Phoebe nodded her head.

‘Oh my God, Phoebe, if you can hear this, squeeze my hand!’ I yelled.

When I felt her fingers grip mine, tears streamed down my face.

Ecstatic, I rushed over to a nurse.

‘That’s amazing. We’ll try to bring her out of the coma again tomorrow,’ she said.

The next morning, Lennart and I got to the hospital to see Phoebe wide awake.

‘I’m so pleased you’re okay,’ I gushed, hugging her.

She had made a miraculous recovery. The only injury was a wound on the back of her neck.

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My brother Daniel, Uncle Stig, Dad and me (Credit: Supplied)

‘When you spoke to me about Mimi, I didn’t even know I was in a coma. I thought we were having a normal conversation,’ she said.

We were so grateful to the rescue diver, who got Phoebe just in the nick of time.

The accident hasn’t put Phoebe off speedboat racing either, and less than a month later she returned to the water. I was terrified, but I can’t stop her from doing what she loves.

Phoebe’s always been very reserved and shy, but since the accident, her whole personality has changed.

Now, she’ll chat away to anyone and is much more extroverted.

And it’s altered her overall perspective on everything.

‘I’ve been given a second chance at life,’ she said. ‘There’s something out there for me.’

I couldn’t agree more.

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