Devastating new details are emerging about the tragic death of Aussie Winter Olympics star Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin, with reports his family watched attempts to revive him after seeing commotion at the beach.
Pullin died while spearfishing on an artificial reef off Palm Beach on the Gold Coast on Wednesday morning.
Police have confirmed Pullin was unconscious when he was dragged from the water around 10.40am on Wednesday.
“Another diver was out there and located him on the sea floor and raised the attention of nearby surfers who sought lifeguards to bring him in,” an officer told reporters.
“He didn't have an oxygen mask, we understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef.”
Paramedics and lifeguards performed CPR for about 35 minutes, but he was pronounced dead just before 11.15am.
According to the Courier Mail, Pullin’s girlfriend Ellidy Vlug and her mother arrived at the tragic scene after seeing paramedics on the beach.
They reportedly went down to the beach to see what the commotion was about and witnessed the failed attempts to resuscitate him.
Pullin is believed to have suffered a ‘shallow water blackout’ - when someone faints underwater.
“At the time paramedics were on scene, we were unable to locate anyone who knew the patient, so we just had to treat with the conditions we found,” Queensland Ambulance Service officer Justin Payne said.
“The patient did have water in the lungs which paramedics were suctioning while trying to perform CPR and provide oxygen support.
“There were no other signs of trauma on the patient so we suspect that the patient has succumbed to a drowning event at this time.”
Shaken witnesses described he tragic resuscitation attempts to Seven News.
“That was going on for a while before I’m assuming they just stopped,” one bystander said. “I was a bit shaken up.”
Another said: “We just couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”
“I remember when the white sheet came out – it was just tragic. We just feel sorry for his family.”
Senior Sergeant Chris Tritton told reporters they were trying to figure out exactly what happened.
“We know accidents can happen like this under the water, our bodies aren’t used to going through that,” he said.
“But really I don’t know what’s happened, it’s very upsetting.”
Tributes flow for much-loved ‘Chumpy’
The 32-year-old was the flag-bearer for Australia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Pullin, known affectionately as ‘Chumpy’, won world championship titles in 2011 and 2013, and nine World Cup gold medals.
AOC chef de mission Ian Chesterman said he was a champion bloke and would be sorely missed.
“He had great charisma that allowed him to be a natural leader,” Mr Chesterman said.
“His enthusiasm was infectious and his impact on Olympic sport can't be overstated.”
Snow Australia sent their condolences to Pullin's family, as well as his teammates and support staff.
“Alex was a beloved member of the Snow Australia community and he will be dearly missed,” the body said in a statement.
Former slalom ski world champion and independent MP Zali Stegall tweeted that it was a “very sad day for Aussie sport”.
“We don't get many athletes in winter sport of his standard,” Ms Stegall wrote.
So sad to hear of the drowning of Winter Aussie Sport Champion Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin. We don’t get many athletes in winter sport of his standard. Such a loss, very sad day for Aussie sport. My deepest thoughts to his family and team.— 🌏 Zali Steggall MP (@zalisteggall) July 8, 2020
RIP Alex Pullin, Australian Olympic flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics. “Chumpy” was an all-round outdoorsman and world champion snowboard cross athlete. He had a lovely open personality and lived life to the max in all ways. Tragic tragic loss— Anthony Sharwood ❄️ (@antsharwood) July 8, 2020
Deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin.— Ambulance Victoria (@AmbulanceVic) July 8, 2020
A talented Olympic Snowboarder and respected sportsman, Alex was also a big supporter of emergency services, generously volunteering his time to us.
Sending love to his family. Vale Chumpy. pic.twitter.com/p7FoHxFCWW
Extremely shocked and saddened to hear the news of Chumpy’s passing. Chumpy was a huge part of the Australian Winter team and will be sorely missed.— Jarryd Hughes (@JarrydHughes) July 8, 2020
It was an honour to be teammates and have raced alongside you. Sending my condolences to his family, friends and loved ones. RIP. pic.twitter.com/EX6SwPhUzm