Adelaide diver Oksana Samkova says she is “very, very grateful” to everyone who was involved in her rescue – and also for the torch she credits saving her life.
Ms Samkova spent three hours in the Gulf of St. Vincent on Monday evening before being rescued when police noticed her flashing light from the shore of Port Noarlunga.
She was pulled out of the water hundreds of meters offshore by the Sea Rescue Squadron at around 11:20 p.m., an hour after being spotted.
Earlier in the evening, the 45-year-old left for her first night dive with a group doing a scuba diving course off the pier at Port Noarlunga in southern Adelaide.
But she broke up with her dive mates and explained this morning what had happened to TBEN Radio Adelaide.
“It was such a strong current and surge that I just couldn’t go down and so all of my teammates went down and I couldn’t,” Ms. Samkova said.
“I just got stuck in a strong current and ended up floating for three hours.
“[After] trying to get down and reach the shore i just got exhausted and in the end i just had to learn to surrender to the situation and use practical skills to think, “what can keep me alive?
“Fortunately, I had a very good torch that I bought recently and this torch lasted me three hours, which I waved frantically in all directions.
“I think this torch saved my life, to be honest.”
Recovery in hospital
Ms Samkova was treated by paramedics on shore after breathing seawater and taken to Flinders Medical Center.
She hopes to be released today and thanked her dive team for their support during and after the rescue.
“It was really great teamwork,” she says.
“It’s one thing that also helped me stay strong because I knew they would look for me.
“I knew they would call the rescuers and eventually I would be spotted, but I was just praying that my torch wouldn’t die – [it] was already on her last legs.
Sea Rescue Commodore Frank Miller agreed that it was the torch that saved Ms Samkova.
“Dressed in a black jumpsuit, the light was really the main difference,” he said.
“It dramatically improved his chances.
“Of course, the sense of urgency was that we had to get there before the battery failed.”
He said his ordeal was a reminder of the potential dangers of seemingly calm beaches.
“The sea is a very, very powerful builder and these things happen,” he said.
Nurse to learn from her experience
Ms. Samkova is from Ukraine and works as a nurse.
She speaks regularly about trauma in the course of her work and said she would now be able to draw inspiration from an example from her own life.
She said having coping strategies helped, as well as critical thinking.
“I think it’s helped me a lot to be resilient and not to give up, to speak the truth,” she said.
“I’m very, very grateful to my teammates, who did a great job locating me and calling rescuers and ultimately saving my life.
Once she is better, she plans to return to the water and underwater.
“I will dive again – I love diving – but it will take time,” she said.
“I will make sure my line is in good shape and that I am in good shape and well [but] I don’t think it will be a night dive after that.