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Laszlo Dombovary with Tiarnee Massie and Grace Kaihau

Rescue by Aussies Inspires Laslo's Letter

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
PHUKET: Two young Australians holidaying on Phuket saved a tourist from drowning last month - and he has now told the world how much he appreciates them.

Junior lifeguard ''nippers'' Tiarnee Massie, 12, and Grace Kaihau, 13, are being hailed for their great work by the Sunshine Coast Daily, in Queensland.

Laszlo Dombovary was so delighted to be saved at Phuket's Kata beach that he wrote a letter of praise to a lifesaving club, telling in his own lively words how the two young Aussies came to his rescue.

Here's Laszlo Dombovary's unedited letter to the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club.

I HAVE been rather fortunate in my life as I have chosen to face challenges and confront difficulty rather than shy away. I have travelled in war zones ( not by choice ), witnessed insurrection that led to civil war, jumped from airplanes, scubaed to depths most people shake their heads at, purposely walked in the footsteps of history's greatest people but those are all long stories in themselves and this is not about me. This is about the moment in my life when I personally witnessed greatness firsthand and was a rather unwittingly, willing participant. I enjoy bodysurfing and have done it in many different parts of the world, Kata Beach on the island of Phuket being one of them. In 2011, I spent hours frolicking in the water and enjoying, what then was a friendly pattern of waves.

On the afternoon of Monday, June 24, 2013 I left my girlfriend under a beach umbrella and ran into the water to ride a few waves then settle onto a lounger in the shade with a cold beer. The first three or four waves were tremendous and fun and I felt relaxed and comfortable. One wave however seemed to carry me away a little more than I realized . . . then another broke onto me and I felt a little fazed by it. I looked towards the beach and I was further away and away from the area I first entered the water.

I tried to bodysurf my way out of my problem as I had done on two other occasions, one at Waimea Bay, Hawaii and another near Redondo Beach, California. Those incidents were many, many years ago when I was a more physically up for it. My arms were rubbery and I was trying to figure out what I was in for and how I could handle this situation. I knew my time was limited and saw no way out except to keep try to bodysurf in. Suddenly I heard a stern voice yell out ''Are you okay..?''..without hesitation I said ''No..I'm in trouble.''

The girl on a surf board again yelled ''Get on my board'' . . . even then I thought I did not want to get her into my situation. ( Please bear in mind that it takes much longer to describe the incident than it did to happen ). I said ''What about you? '' She was strong, intent and adamant. she yelled again ''I'm okay . . . get on my board'' and I knew at that second that she was okay and I did whatever she said. I managed to get onto the board but was washed off . . . I hung on and she said again ''Get on my board'' I managed to get on and she held onto me and again, firmly yelled ''Paddle towards those people'' ( those people being where I had first entered the water . . . they were about waist deep ) My arms were like rubber . . . I yelled ''I can't'' . . . she countered in a stern voice, loudly . . . ''Yes you can'' I thought we were close enough so I got off the board and tried to get my feet into sand . . . no such luck.

It was then another girl on a board arrived she was also confident in manner and when she yelled get on my board, I asked no questions and did as she said . . . she hung on to me while the other girl paddled off as if a crocodile was chasing her . . . she returned with a lifeguard who's experience was required. He paddled towards us with sheer determination in his eyes . . . and I got onto his board . . . he used his bulk to hold me on and we paddled to safety. Safely on the beach.

I got to meet my rescuers. i thanked them kissed them each on the forehead and wobbled back to the beach. I got back my cool and senses and with my girlfriend and camera in hand sought out the girls. We took photos and I again thanked them with such emotion I could barely contain. I met the Mum and got the names of the girls. Tiarnee Massie and Grace Kaihu. Names I will forever hold in my heart . . . names I will never forget. I spoke with Tiarnee's Mum, Amanda and we talked for a few minutes and I again left for the beach chairs. I returned again to get the spelling of the girls' names so I could write this little story. It was then I got to talk with Amanda and she explained that this is what they like to do and have helped other unfortunates in bad situations like mine. I got her email address and she wrote down the names correctly and gave me the name of your Surf Club.

I was fortunate enough to run into the whole family the next day when Amanda told me ( as my girlfriend and I pulled up to a viewpoint on our motor scooter ) that Tiarnee said ''Look Mum . . . there's the man I rescued yesterday'' Indeed she had . . . and I understand it was her first rescue . . . and with all the crazy things I've done in my life, it was the first time I couldn't get myself out of trouble . . . so it was also my first rescue.

I am proud to say Tiarnee Massie and Grace Kaihue saved my life that day . . . and I sit and type this now with tears in my eyes as I remember their selfless efforts . . . quite possibly putting themselves into danger for me . . . for me . . . this would be in most cases a difficult thing to understand but after crossing paths with the whole family several times over the next two days I understood where their attitudes had come from. I ran into Tiarnee's Dad, Dale and Uncle Ashly and we spoke at length. The whole family carries the same humility and confidence . . . I had asked Amanda on the beach If I could take them all to dinner and she turned me down with such modesty . . . Dale and Ashley also would not let me buy them a beer . . . unheard of for Australian men. ( a joke ).

I know where the girls got their strength and modesty. On their last night there, the whole family walked past me as my girlfriend and I ate dinner . . . I could not let them go without a final 'thank you and good bye'. I apologize for the length of this story but I could really have made it much longer for it is a much longer story. I would like to thank the whole family again . . . and I am sorry I am unable to name the rest but I can see they are all of the same ilk. To Tiarnee . . . thank you for allowing me to be your first rescue . . . and for rescuing me first . . . and thank you to Grace for coming in to hang on to me while Tiarnee went for further help.

For my part . . . I will NEVER forget this moment and those first few words Tiarnee yelled at me . . . they are burned into my brain, as their names are etched into my heart and I am sure as I breath my last many, many years from now . . . I will hear them again . . . ''Get on my board'' and I will happily do so. Thanks to Tiarnee and Grace again . . . and again . . . and thank you all for your club . . . it is a fantastic concept that the whole world could use as a lesson.

First published online at where readers can find an interview with Tiarnee and Grace.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


What a great story! Good on ya girls, any negativity here please remove ed.

Nice story to bring a smile to a midweek gloom!

Posted by eezergood on July 10, 2013 10:21


Excellent story and a big thumbs up to Laszlo for writing this and actually sending it to the Sunshinecoastdaily.

Posted by stevenl on July 10, 2013 10:45


Well done girls - you would make any parent proud of you. Great story and nice to get one with a happy ending.

Posted by Logic on July 10, 2013 14:00


That has made my day! Utterly fantastic!

Posted by Sam W on July 10, 2013 14:32


Been a few comments of late rubbishing
Aussies well there's no negatives on this one, a very warm and endearing story
shows how a little water knowledge goes a long way Girls don't bother with your rescue badge back home should be granted gratis, its now proven fact you know your stuff.

Posted by slickmelb on July 10, 2013 16:15


Nice job on everyone's part.

Posted by fw on July 11, 2013 02:08


great stuff...goodonya girls...kudos too to their lifesaving club trainers...watched my kids going through the training ....a lot of hard work by trainers and students and sometimes tears..
Hope the Governor,TAT and the Australian consul read the letter...these girls deserve recognition, award or reward surely?

Posted by David on July 11, 2013 05:34

Editor Comment:

Just as important is the fast-tracking of Australian lifesaving standards on Phuket's beaches. This involves greater commitment to protecting tourists by the entire Phuket community, improved training and equipment, and support for training Thai youngsters the way young Aussies are trained from childhood. Beach tourism needs a real beach culture, something that Phuket has yet to grow. An independent Phuket Beach Authority would help.


So what about a nice brass plaque for the the lifesaving club ..
Plus: An annual life saving convention sponsored by HM King, Governments,TAT and Corporates named after these girl coincide with Kings Cup Regatta? ....competitions etc would attract tourists methinks...good for positive Phuket tourism?

Posted by David on July 11, 2013 11:00


As the Thais love building on public beaches build a Lifesaving Club.

Posted by slickmelb on July 12, 2013 00:09

Friday October 22, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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