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How school teacher beat drowning and the Bellamy exam

The only time Chris Lewis never fought his own way out of a problem, he was being held underwater in a swollen river.

Credit: Nick Walshaw.

Trapped, and drowning, among the submerged branches of an old fallen tree. Which was nothing good.

Nor what the youngster was imagining minutes earlier when, after heavy rain, he decided to canoe down that same stretch of waterway twisting through four kilometres of his family’s cattle property near Inverell.

Along for the ride too, came older brothers Matt and Mark.

“Growing up, we’d always wanted to get canoes in that river when it was high,” Lewis recalls. “Just to see how fast we’d go.”

Only problem? It was how fast they went.

​“Then, we hit rapids,” Lewis cackles, recalling a whitewater so menacing it not only tipped his canoe but then held him underwater, helpless.

Submerged and pinned, he says, “between my canoe and that tree”. 

At which point, fearlessly, eldest brother Matt dived into the drink.

“Saved my life,” Lewis says. Which undeniably, is some yarn. Although not the one defining this son of a Wagyu cattle farmer and grandson of a shearer.

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