Act of bravery praised

Kate Campbell and Glenn CordingleyBroome Advertiser
Camera IconCredit: Supplied

Faced with the ultimate test of bravery, self-doubt and uncertainty crept into Jack Bray’s mind, like it would anyone else in his position.

But Broome-born Jack was a rare breed. In the end, the insecurities and obvious risks didn’t matter to him and when staring at a crossroads, he didn’t baulk or back down.

The 31-year-old, who grew-up in the Kimberley town, chose the selfless path that tragically ended in him sacrificing his life to save another.

Jack was showing his new friend Erica, a 21-year-old Canadian in Australia on a working holiday, the sights at Boat Harbour near Denmark on Saturday, April 1, during a camping trip in the Great Southern when Erica was swept off rocks into rough seas while taking a photo.

Jack rushed to raise the alarm and ensured police and emergency services were on their way, threw an esky into the water to help Erica stay afloat and then decided to put his own life on the line.

His stepfather Michael Prouse relayed that heroic moment to nearly 700 mourners who packed into a chapel at Fremantle Cemetery last Wednesday to say their final goodbye to the lovable larrikin who always put others first.

“A local man who was with Jack at the time said that Jack had turned to him and said something like, ‘I can’t leave her there. And I know I drink too much, and I know I smoke too much, but I might have a crack at this’,” Mr Prouse said.

“And then he grabbed a boogie board and jumped into the water to try to help her.”

Mr Prouse said witnesses reported Jack reached Erica about 200m out to sea in treacherous conditions — 50-knot winds, a 5.5m swell and a water temperature of 17C — which even the Water Police initially considered were too dangerous to launch a search in, before heading out anyway.

“Erica said that about an hour later when they were getting close to some rocks and shore, she felt a push and that enabled her to reach a rock face and she was able to climb to safety. When she looked around she could no longer see Jack,” he said. “I like to think that push was not a result of some random act of the sea but a last final effort of a man intent on saving the life of another.”

As Jack’s funeral last Wednesday started to the music of Mariah Carey’s Hero and Country Strong’s Forever Young, there was soon not a dry eye in the room.

Jack’s mother, Pauline Prouse, was amazed at the turnout which saw many people from Broome fly to Perth to pay their respects.

One of those was Shire of Broome president Ron Johnston.

“Jack was a great kid who touched the lives of a lot of people,” he said.

“His father Mick Bray is a well-known Broome identity and he was overwhelmed by the presence of so many Broome people who travelled to the funeral.”

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