Bravery medals for Australian lifesavers that saved drowning Leylanders on their Croatian holiday
Two Australians that saved the lives of a group of Leylanders have been presented with bravery medals by their country to honour their courageous acts.
Craig and Jackie O’Neill, along with friends Jay Cartwright and Helen Wilson, were put in to dire straights in September 2017 when their boat off the coast of Hvar, Croatia, capsized due to choppy waves.
The four, all from Leyland, were thrown into the ocean along with all their possessions.
But Australians Zen Joyce and Marc Johnson from a nearby taxi boat risked their own lives by diving into the rough water to rescue the four of them.
Despite his own fatigue, Zen swam three to safety – at one point carrying both Craig and Jackie at the same time.
Marc, who originally stayed on the taxi boat, then also entered the ocean to help Craig aboard the vessel, who was struggling to keep his dead above the water.
Almost two years later, the duo have been commended by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia – the country’s representative of Queen Elizabeth II – for their heroics after being nominated by Craig.
Craig said: “It’s the least they deserve.
"If it wasn’t for them, especially Zen, me and Jackie wouldn’t be here today.
“Zen’s flying over to Manchester with his missus Catherine on the 19th of September so we’re going to have a few beers and a catch up.
"We’ve not seen each other since.
“When they go to get the awards they are going to let me know so we can watch it live over the internet; we can’t wait.
“The Australian government really research these things; they don’t just give them to anybody.”
And while the date that Zen meets up with Craig and Jackie isn’t the exact same, September 19 will be exactly two years to the day since the incident took place.
“Zen’s dad was also given one of these awards, a Queen’s Bravery Award,” said Craig.
“He has passed away since so it’s been really touching for him.
"They’re like a family of super heroes.”
David Hurley, Australia’s Governor-General, said: “These individuals deserve our admiration.
“They are an inspiration and examples of the sort of selfless sacrifice that we can all aspire to.”
“I was shocked, honoured and humbled,” said Zen to the Illawarra Mercury.
“I am proud to receive a bravery award especially because my father received one. It is touching.”
After appearing in the Post in 2017, Craig and Jackie’s ordeal was picked up by newspapers around the world.