Brisbane artist Robert Brownhall is hoping to track down his childhood rescuer who raised the alarm, to thank him for saving his life.
Brisbane artist Robert Brownhall is hoping to track down his childhood rescuer who raised the alarm, to thank him for saving his life.

Artist’s bid to find man who saved his life

A BRISBANE artist, who nearly drowned in a Bundaberg creek 47 years ago, is hoping to track down his childhood rescuer who raised the alarm, to thank him for saving his life.

Robert Brownhall, who has sold his works to governments, galleries and celebrities, is searching for a man named Dean Barry, who as a three-year-old boy, raised the alarm and saved his life in Kelly's Creek at Bargara in 1971.

Mr Brownhall, who was also three at the time, was found floating just beneath the surface, with only his hand visible, according to media reports.

Dean Barry was the only one to see him and raised the alarm.

Mr Brownhall, who now has three kids, said he hoped to find the man and offer him one of his paintings.

"I'd like to shake his hand and thank him," he said. "I'd like to give him a picture."

The Brisbane artist, who turns 50 in August, said he had never read the article written about the near-drowning until recently, which spurred him on to track down Mr Barry.

"I knew about the story, but I actually hadn't read it in detail," he said.

"I contacted my mother recently and I asked her for a photograph of me with my first surfboard… and she said she couldn't find it.

"And I said, 'well, have you got the drowning story I would like to read it?'

"When I read the article I saw his name there, and at that minute I thought … I wouldn't exist and my three kids wouldn't exist, and none of it would have happened if it wasn't for this guy yelling out.

"Often kids when there's an accident or something they'll run away.

"Instead of that, he went and signalled his mum and the lifesavers were able to resuscitate me.

"When I read that in the article, it had a pretty big effect on me."

Mr Brownhall said he believed the near-death experience was one of the reasons he became an artist.

"When something dramatic like that happens to you, it hangs around with you forever."

"It's like it's in every painting. I'm painting, buildings and cityscapes and things, but the story of that is probably in every picture in a way.