Adelaide diver Oksana Samkova says she is “very, very grateful” to everyone who participated in her rescue — and also for the torch that she credits with saving her life.
Ms Samkova spent three hours in Gulf St Vincent on Monday night before being rescued when police noticed her flashing light from the shore in Port Noarlunga.
She was plucked from the water hundreds of metres offshore by the Sea Rescue Squadron about 11:20pm, an hour after she was spotted.
Earlier in the evening, the 45-year-old had set off on her first night dive with a group doing a diving course off the Port Noarlunga jetty, in Adelaide’s south.
But she became separated from her diving companions, and this morning explained what happened to ABC Radio Adelaide.
“It was such a strong current and surge that I just couldn’t descend and so all my teammates descended and I couldn’t,” Ms Samkova said.
“I just got stuck getting swept away by a strong current and ended up floating for three hours.
“[After] trying to descend and get to the shore, I just got exhausted and at the end I just had to learn to surrender to the situation and use practical skills of thinking: ‘What can keep me alive?’
“Luckily, I had a very good torch which I had recently bought and this torch lasted me for three hours, which I was frantically waving in all directions.
“I think this torch saved my life, to be honest.”
Recovering in hospital
Ms Samkova was treated by paramedics on shore after breathing in seawater, and was taken to the Flinders Medical Centre.
She is hoping to be released today, and has thanked her dive crew for their support during and after the rescue.
“It was really great teamwork,” she said.
“That’s one thing that helped me as well to stay strong because I knew they would be looking for me.
“I knew they would call the rescuers and eventually I would get spotted, but I was just praying for my torch not to die — [it] was already on the last legs.”
Sea Rescue Commodore Frank Miller agreed that it was the torch that saved Ms Samkova.
“Dressed full in a black wetsuit, the light was really the main difference,” he said.
“It improved her chances extraordinarily.
“Of course, the sense of urgency was that we had to get there before the battery failed.”
He said her ordeal was a reminder of the potential dangers of apparently calm beaches.
“The sea is a very, very strong taskmaster and these things happen,” he said.
Nurse to draw on experience
Ms Samkova is originally from Ukraine and works as a nurse.
She regularly speaks about trauma as part of her job, and said she would now be able to draw upon an example from her own life.
She said having coping strategies helped, as well as critical thinking.
“I think that helped me a lot to be resilient and not to give up, to tell the truth,” she said.
“I’m very, very grateful for my teammates, who did great work in spotting me and calling rescuers and eventually saving my life.”
Once she is better, she plans to get back into, and under, the water.
“I will dive again — I love diving — but it will take a while,” she said.
“I will make sure my line is in good condition and I’m fit and well [but] I don’t think it will be a night dive after this.”