Trevor Burns, from Brisbane, is one of only 141 people nationwide to ever receive the award over the Australian Bravery Award’s 38 years. Mr Burns is the only person to be honoured with the award this year.
On October 30, 2010, Mr Burns and tour guide Elyse Franckom were snorkelling northeast of Garden Island with a tour group when Ms Franckom was violently attacked by a 3m shark. Mr Burns grabbed the shark’s tail in an attempt to pull it off her. As he held on, the shark began to thrash about, throwing Mr Burns around in the water before swimming away.
The dozen other tourists in the water frantically swam to the boat, except Mr Burns, who dived down around 4m through blood-filled water to retrieve Ms Franckom, who was sinking to the sea floor.
Mr Burns pulled her to the surface, swam to the boat and lifted her on to the back landing and ensured everyone was safe before he left the water.
Ms Franckom survived her ordeal, receiving 200 stitches and several operations.
Mr Burns told the Courier he was ‘humbled’ by the award. ‘I do remember the attack, pretty much every day; it’s never far away from my thoughts,’ he said.
‘I’m pretty confident I would do it again, but it’s hard to know unless you’re in that situation. I couldn’t have left someone like Elyse there.’