A TEENAGER has been labelled a hero after saving a girl from drowning in Tanzania while on the trip of a lifetime.
Marc Edwards, 16, from Mid Calder, was swimming at Marangu Falls in Kilimanjaro National Park earlier this month when he rushed to the 14-year-old’s aid.
The girl had been climbing out of the water on a cold day at the scenic location when the dramatic change in temperature made her body go into shock.
She collapsed near the falls, hitting her head on submerged rocks and falling back into the water.
Mr Edwards, who was with teenage friends Brandon Binks and Cameron Lloyd, said: “I’d looked around and saw her falling. I tried to grab her, but I was just a millisecond late. She fell backwards. It was on a slope and she hit her head off the rocks next to the waterfall. When she hit her head, that made her body go into a fit.
“Her family was there. Her dad was holding her head, but we just had to tell him to leave her. It’s something you really shouldn’t do. If someone’s having a fit, you’re not even supposed to touch them.
“She was choking on her sick, so I put her into the recovery position. She had a couple of cuts on her face... I tried to clean up all her face and get the sick away.
“We did what’s called the secondary survey, which is basically a head-to-toe search to check if anything’s broken or damaged.”
The quick thinking of Mr Edwards and his friends stabilised the girl’s condition until she could be taken to the nearest hospital about an hour away.
The trio followed up their life-saving efforts by instructing tour guides at the falls about how to carry out basic first aid. None of the guides had ever received any training.
Mr Edwards said: “Given that nobody at the waterfalls knew first aid, there probably would have been about a 90 per cent chance she would have died if we weren’t there.”
The teenager returned home last week following the five-and-a-half week trip with the Mount Kilimanjaro First Aid Community Programme – a scheme that teaches new skills to youths from disadvantaged backgrounds. He had volunteered after speaking to recruiters at West Lothian College.
Mr Edwards helped run football coaching sessions for African primary school children as well as raising awareness about the HIV virus while in Tanzania.
“I only told my family when I actually got accepted,” he said. “I wanted to see what it would be like and how much stuff I take for granted at home.
“Before I just used to play on the Xbox and when I went out I’d just leave it switched on. But now I turn all the sockets off, trying to save as much electricity as I can.
“I’ve gone back to college. I used to be quite an idiot last year at college and school, but seeing the conditions they had to live in has changed me.”
Mother Susan Edwards said: “It’s like he’s totally grown up. He went away as a boy and has come back a man. I don’t mean that he was disrespectful before, but he’s a lovely, lovely young man now.”
Programme director Tina Wren said of the scheme: “Some of the participants might have learning difficulties and they don’t always do well at school. So we give them a second chance in life to acquire new skills.”