A 12-year-old girl drowned at a popular beach after a brave nurse jumped into the water and tried to save the teenager and her friend.
Cienna Jervies, 12, was swimming with another 13-year-old girl when they hit trouble at Collendina Beach in Ocean Grove, Victoria, at about 6pm on Tuesday.
Nurse Elise Van Wegen had been walking her dog with headphones on when she was stopped by two screaming women pleading for her to help the two drowning girls.
The 35-year-old immediately jumped into the surf and swam some 100m off the shore to reach them.
The mother-of-two explained she was holding the girls with her hands but the surf conditions were ‘just too rough’ and the trio were separated.
Cienna Jervies, 12, (second from right) drowned at Collendina Beach. She is being remembered as a ‘happy’ and ‘artistic’ soul who was ‘sometimes shy, sometimes bubbly’
Nurse Elise Van Wegen (pictured) was walking her dog with headphones on when she was stopped by two screaming women asking her to help the two drowning girls
‘I got to both of them and they were conscious, they were talking and they were looking at me,’ Ms Van Wegen told the Geelong Advertiser.
‘I was holding them with my hands and then the waves just separated us all. I could hear her [Cienna Jervies] yelling out “I’m drowning”.’
Despite the efforts of rescuers, Year 7 Bellarine Secondary College student Cienna Jervies died at the beach.
Ms Van Wegen explained another ‘hero’ man swam out to them and was able to bring one of the girls back to shore.
The nurse was rushed to Geelong hospital along with the 13-year-old survivor and the Good Samaritan.
Ms Van Wegen has since been released from hospital but has been left ‘completely devastated’ by the ordeal.
‘Because I’m a nurse I’m good at compartmentalising, but it’s very traumatic… I also could have left my own family without me, so there is a lot of emotions.’ Ms Van Wegen said.
Beachgoers reported seeing ‘very rough’ and treacherous swimming conditions shortly before the young girl drowned.
Collendina Beach stretches for 6km from Point Londsdale and Barwon Heads most of the open bay between Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads.
The south east facing beach is known for its dangerous surf conditions, producing waves up to 1.5 metres high and persistent rips occurring every 250 metres – with some permanent rips against the more prominent reefs of the beach.
The beach was not patrolled by the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club at the time of the incident.
The grief-stricken family of Cienna Jervies, who died after drowning at the beach, are remembering their ‘sissy’ as a happy and artistic soul.
Beachgoers reported seeing ‘very rough’ and treacherous swimming conditions shortly before the tragedy (pictured, Collendina Beach)
‘We are all heartbroken,’ one family member told the Geelong Advertiser.
Family friend Zoe Mayne started a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral costs and ongoing expenses.
‘Sissy was a much loved, artistic, happy, sometimes shy, sometimes bubbly year 7 girl,’ Ms Mayne wrote.
‘[she was] a daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter, niece, and the loyalist and best friend anyone could have.’
‘Cienna was a very important and loved member of the Clifton Springs and Bellarine community,’ Ms Mayne wrote.
‘Jodie and Brent, Cienna’s parents, are understandably unable to work at this time, they are caring for their sons and trying to navigate life and grief.’
Ms Mayne explained any donations are ‘greatly appreciated’ and will go towards helping the Jervies family.
At the time of writing, the GoFundMe page has received 175 donations with a total of $18,265 and has a goal of raising $30,000.