On October 18, 2014, Dean Cattley and his son Dexter, of Cardiff, drove to Sydney to attend a monster truck show at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Homebush.
As Mr Cattley recalls, it was a long trip. When they reached Sydney, they stood in line for 45 minutes to get a merchandise T-shirt, then headed to the Olympic Aquatic Centre for a swim.
Mr Cattley asked his son where he wanted to swim and Dexter pointed to the middle of children’s pool near the waterslide.
“It was chock-a-block, on a Saturday afternoon,” he recalled. “We waded straight out into the water. The top of me was still dry. When we got to the spot, I looked straight down and a girl floated toward me. She was absolutely blue, she wasn’t on top of the water, she wasn’t on the bottom.”
He quickly realised nobody was looking after the girl.
“I pulled her out of the pool – people don’t go blue, it’s quite confronting,” he said. Holding the girl, he called out to lifeguards as he waded through the crowd to the side of the pool and laid her in the recovery position, where the pool attendants took over. The girl had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.
The attendants and an off-duty nurse took over and started applying CPR.
The girl, aged 4, was eventually resuscitated and taken to Westmead Hospital, where she was released the following day.
On Monday, Cattley and the pool staff were presented with the NSW Police South West Regional Commander’s Certificate of Appreciation for their lifesaving actions on that day.
A statement read at the presentation said: “The combined actions of this group are commended as there can be doubt that their direct intervention contributed greatly in saving the young child's life.”
Mr Cattley, who is currently studying to become a primary school teacher, had time to reflect on the event on Monday at the ceremony. He and the others were never given an opportunity to meet the little girl who survived, but he’s happy she’s alive.
“My daughter [Quinn] was about the same size and same age, they are so vulnerable,” he said.
The event made a big impression on him as a parent.
“This four-year-old was alone … this has been a big takeaway for me. You have to know who is with your child. If not you, you must make sure another adult is watching.”
“Before then, I was pretty good,” he said. “Since then, I am extra vigilant. I’m always keeping an eye out, always supervising. Don’t assume anything. If you’re swimming, you need to be next to them.”
For Mr Cattley, it was important to recognise that the chain of events that saved a little girl’s life began with his son Dexter, who led with him to the spot where the girl was floating beneath the surface. He took Dexter on stage to receive the award with him.
As for heroes, Mr Cattley says that description belongs to the police officers who go beyond the call of duty every single day.