Jeff Wheatley, Fitzroy Motor Boat Club secretary is battening down the hatches ahead of Cyclone Marcia. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Jeff Wheatley, Fitzroy Motor Boat Club secretary is battening down the hatches ahead of Cyclone Marcia. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

Rocky's own Popeye dives into river to save drowning dog

POPEYE the cartoon character is known for his super strength - and last week his Rockhampton namesake demonstrated some of his own.

In the midst of Rocky's freak storm last Thursday he risked his own life just to save that of his little dog after it fell off his boat on the Fitzroy River.

Initial reports had indicated that a man had suffered a fit and fell into the water.

But friend Jeff Wheatley said this was after Popeye, as he is affectionately known, jumped overboard to save his terrier.

Jeff was at the Fitzroy River boat club as the events unfolded but had no idea what had happened until another boat brought Popeye to shore.

"He was totally exhausted," he said.

Popeye did not wish to speak to media, but Jeff said he lives with his dog on his boat, which was being dragged down the river during the storm.

He was above deck checking on his dinghy, which was being smashed against the side of the boat, when the dog followed him and was then swept off.

Jeff said he was found upriver, still clutching his dog, by another boat which went searching for him after noticing his abandoned vessel.

Witness Thomas Jones said he was on the boat which picked Popeye up in the middle of the river.

"This man's love for his dog nearly cost him his life," he said.

"I found him afloat and choking on salt water and still keeping his little dog afloat.

"He passed me his dog and said, 'Just make sure my dog is okay, all I care about is my dog' and then passed out face first in the water.

"He had no energy left.

"I could not lift the man into the boat, he was too heavy, but I was able to hold his shoulders and head out of the water, clear his throat and hang on to him at the side of the boat for about 20 minutes till help came."

Popeye was taken away by ambulance after being brought back to shore.


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