BP Rescue of the Year


The BP Rescue of the Year award is to recognise and reward members involved in the most outstanding rescue during each season.  


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Hawke’s Bay Search and Rescue Squad

Bella Bassett-Foss, Jess Bennett, Rob Bigwood, Sarnia Brewer, Tarsh Brewer, Jimmy Bowden, Josh Braddock, Andrew Callincos, John Callinicos, Jacob Crawley, Ben Cross, Jeremy Crowe, Daniel Cudby, Taylor Dick, Teresa Foxley, Jared Fritchley, Ryan Gordon, Mike Harman, Rhys Harman, Ian Horsefield, Pete Housiaux, Keira Laurie, Will Laver, Adrian Machiela, Harry Machiela, Tony Pattison, Mark Peni, Mike Peterson, Adam Radich, Isaac Van Der Vossen, Steve Williams, Taine Williams, Alfie Wilson


Cyclone Gabrielle struck Hawke’s Bay in the early hours of 14 February 2023, with rising flood waters trapping people on roofs, landslides destroying homes and critical infrastructure, and cutting entire regions off.  Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said, “the severity and the damage that we are seeing has not been experienced in a generation.”


When the call went out for help, 80 surf lifeguards from various regions including Wellington, Kāpiti Coast, Horowhenua, Manawatū, Whanganui, and Hawke’s Bay responded swiftly. 


They worked in some of the most severely impacted areas, such as Eskdale and Bayview, where they successfully rescued over 200 individuals and aided more people and pets to safety. 


For crews in inflatable rescue boats (IRB), the conditions on the water were nothing like anyone had experienced before, with surf lifeguards having to duck under power lines and navigate hazards and debris to retrieve people from rooftops and return them safely to land.


It was a demanding time for all those involved as they carried out complex rescues, many leaving their worried friends and whānau behind, but they did it with courage and determination, and with the care and safety of people always front-of-mind.

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2021 - Taranaki SLS Search and Rescue Squad - Andrew Cronin, Richard Matheson, Scott Nelson and Dave Bentley

Near Port Taranaki, sits Pararaki Rock. At low tide, it’s accessible, but if you don’t keep a close eye on the incoming sea, getting stranded is a distinct possibility. Andrew Cronin, Richard Matheson, Scott Nelson and Dave Bentley of the Taranaki SLS Search and Rescue Squad faced this rescue scenario when they received a call from the local Police Search and Rescue team. A combination of challenging conditions, including fading light, rocky terrain, strong surf and currents, and multiple people to be brought to shore, made the rescue a high-stakes challenge and worthy of the title Rescue of the Year.

Four teenage girls were stuck on Pararaki Rock off Back Beach, having made their way over to swim in the lagoon on the island. As dusk signalled the impending nightfall, the current grew stronger. One girl made an unsuccessful attempt to return to shore and scrambled back up the rocks to her friends. They then made the lifesaving decision to phone for help.

Rescue swimmer Andy Cronin reached them first. With a westerly wind biting, the girls were feeling the cold and were relieved and thankful to see him. After moving the group to a more sheltered position and checking for injuries, Andy radioed the Squad Coordinator, Dave, to settle on a plan. The stranded group waited together in the dimming light. Back-up arrived a short time later with an IRB driven by Scott and crewed by Richard. After Andy assisted two girls down sharp rocks in low light to the transfer point, Scott held the IRB in position against the strong currents, so Andy and Richard could help the girls into the craft.

After returning two girls safely to the beach, Scott and Richard navigated through rough surf to collect Andy and the last two girls. Meanwhile, Andy had climbed back up the rocks to recover and guide down the remaining girls in even darker conditions. Strong currents and low light meant there was no margin for error to get the girls into the boat. Should they fall into the water, they could be swept behind Pararaki Rock and hard to find in the darkness. By the time all members of the group had returned safely, it was nightfall.

Dave Bentley, head of the Taranaki SLS Search and Rescue Squad, says that teamwork was paramount to ensuring a happy outcome.

“The expertise and professionalism of the team to act swiftly... and continue to conduct ongoing risk assessments in challenging surf and light conditions proved to be an almost certain prevention of a drowning should the females have attempted to swim back in the dangerous dark conditions."

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2020 - SLS KARIAOTAHI EMERGENCY CALL OUT SQUAD - Shannon Benterman, Bradley Walters, Nick Hornblow, Shannon Swann, Maddison Hare, Leanni Browne, Josh Watkins, James Burton, Chris Parker, Mike Lawrence, Guy Hornblow and Tara Coe.

Three lives saved. It doesn’t get much better for Kariaotahi’s Surf Life Saving Club’s Emergency Call Out Squad of Shannon Benterman, Bradley Walters, Nick Hornblow, Shannon Swann, Maddison Hare, Leanni Browne, Josh Watkins, James Burton, Chris Parker, Mike Lawrence, Guy Hornblow and Tara Coe.

At 5.50pm on May 25, 2019, the squad was sent to the Waikato River Mouth with an IRB and Night Operations Kit to combine with the Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service, Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Police Eagle Helicopter to search for a missing boat with three on board.

An hour later Eagle spotted the boat, it’s crew all wearing life jackets but about half a mile out to sea. Westpac tried to winch them on board but the conditions were too rough so Kariaotahi headed out, Westpac’s spotlight guiding them.

It was 7.16pm when Hornblow and crewman Walters left shore and within a few minutes they had reached the stricken boat, pulled the crew into the IRB and returned to shore. Two of them, a woman and seven year old boy, had little sign of life and needed urgent care with CPR administered to the woman before she and the boy were flown by the Westpac chopper to hospital while lifeguards transported the man to the Surf Club where he was met by an ambulance.

Walters, the head of Surf Life Saving at Kariaotahi, said the rescue was the result of years of training, sound processes and risk assessments in place by the agencies involved. Without that and the fast, efficient patient pick up by the IRB crew under difficult conditions it was almost certain that those three lives would have been lost that night. “It was a fantastic, well coordinated, multi-agency response which had a positive outcome for all involved,” Walters said.

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2019 - Character Roofing Gisborne Emergency Callout Squad - Justin Martin, Matt Kemp, Andrew Shelton and Alan Thorpe

On Christmas Eve, the Character Roofing Gisborne Emergency Callout Squad (ECOS) was mobilised to perform a daring rescue of passengers on a private boat in massive storm waves off the coast of Gisborne.

The ECOS was tasked by Police to help rescue a couple from their 12-metre boat, called Mazurka, after a mayday call in the early afternoon. So, with the help of two lifeguard coordinators on the beach at Wainui SLSC, the crew launched two IRBs with four crew. With deteriorating conditions, the rescue was “risky” and relied upon the skills and expertise of the highly-experienced crew. Unfortunately, it was a bad day for the two passengers on the boat when its anchor line failed, followed by its engine, leaving only idling power. To make matters worse, the Mazurka was being thrown around by the rough seas with waves as high as four meters and was drifting to nearby Monowai Reef at Whangara Beach, north of Gisborne.

The team was quickly put together and within a short timeframe, the two IRBs were headed for the stricken boat through the “treacherous” and “incredibly horrendous” waters. The two IRBs were the first to reach the Mazurka, with Thorpe bravely jumping into the water and boarding the heavily pitching boat to help the young Scottish couple on board.
The conditions had continued to worsen through the afternoon, and darkness was creeping in early because of the storm.

At the time of the rescue, one of the squad members said: “when we turned to go home, I could barely see land because of the swells, the sea mist and rain.” At the time of the incident, Constable Andrew Trafford of Tolaga Bay Police told the Gisborne Herald that it was a “truly amazing rescue.” “These guys were all dragged away from their families the day before Christmas to put their own lives at risk to save the lives of others. They worked tirelessly all afternoon and into the evening. “It was a great result and could have very easily ended up as a double tragedy,” he added.

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2018 - Wanganui Surf Life Saving Club

Wanganui Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) took home the BP Rescue of the Year award for a very difficult rescue off rocks at Kai Iwi Beach in February this year. With the weather deteriorating and the swell getting bigger, they were called in by Police to help rescue two stranded people.

It was too dangerous for the local rescue helicopter to winch the patients from the rocks due to an unstable cliff, while the Coastguard couldn’t get close enough due to the surf conditions, leaving Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs) and Surf Lifeguards as the only option. Ultimately, they saved the two people after navigating the conditions and using all their skills.

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2017 - Far North Surf Rescue

This year, the title of BP Rescue of the Year was awarded to Far North Surf Rescue who saved two trapped divers west of Tapotupotu on March 9. When the lifeguards were alerted, the men had been stranded for more than five hours, wearing only lightweight wetsuits and they were exhausted from their attempts to get back to the beach. Within five minutes, lifeguards had loaded up an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) which they then had to tow to the scene around 125km away. Once on scene, they launched the IRB in fading light, three-metre swells and poor visibility but they quickly located the divers. It was too dangerous to get the IRB close to the rocks so they faced a 100m swim out to the stranded pair who they secured in rescue tubes and returned safely to the beach by 8.30pm.


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2016 - Bethells Beach

This year, the title of BP Rescue of the Year went to Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Club for an off-duty rescue of six swimmers. Just after 5pm on February 21 lifeguards Dean Maddaford, Shane Dwyer, James Newland, Andrew Carr and Robin Hammond were packing up when they noticed the group caught in a rip around 300m off-shore. They quickly launched an IRB and swam out with rescue tubes to help the swimmers who were at the back of massive surf and were seriously close to drowning. Their actions avoided a certain number of deaths in some very difficult conditions.


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2015 - Muriwai & Northern Region

BP Rescue of the Year was awarded to Muriwai and Surf Life Saving Northern Region for the daring rescue of a surfer stuck in the caves near the Gannet Colony.

The week started off as any other for Tai Kahn in the Surf Life Saving Northern Region office until it was interrupted by the incident alarm from the Operations Room. Tai responded and it was immediately clear that the incident would require a primary response from Surf Life Saving in order to prevent the loss of life.

A member of the public had called Police stating that he was at the Muriwai Gannet Colony and could hear someone yelling for help. He couldn’t see anyone; only a surfboard being tossed around in the surging seas below. Tai instructed the Duty Officer to activate the Muriwai Callout Squad and Police tasked the ‘Eagle’ helicopter. The rescue helicopter was also tasked and a lifeguard was requested on board, so Tai promptly joined the crew.

Meanwhile, Muriwai lifeguards Peter Baltus, Lincoln Baltus, Tane Moore and Mark Goodheuw responded to the callout. Tane and Mark readied and launched an IRB while Peter and Lincoln ran around the rocks to the edge of ‘Flat Rock.’ Lincoln took up a vantage point and assumed command of the rescue operation.

Although the lifeguards had reached the location, they couldn’t see the surfer as the conditions were too large and rough to safely take the IRB in to search. The decision was made to send Peter into the water with a rescue tube to look for the patient.

Peter jumped off from Flat Rock into the churning water and started making his way towards the larger cave at the base of the cliff. As he swam, Peter passed the smaller caves and found the teenage surfer clinging to a boulder. As Tai was flying out in the rescue helicopter, Peter was battling the waves, currents and rocks trying to reach the surfer, all the while reassuring the patient that help was there.

The rescue helicopter hovered above, assessing, and Tai saw Peter get bowled by a large set of waves and washed across the rocks. It was clear Tai was needed in the water so the helicopter communicated with the IRB crew, dropping him into deeper water to be collected by the IRB. Once in the water, Tai swam towards the patient, under direction from Lincoln who was on Flat Rock and located the patient battling waves towards the back of the cave.

The first attempt to get him on to the rock face failed and just as Tai was about to explain to the patient that he would need to jump towards him, a large set of waves rolled through and the patient jumped just before he was washed off. He was spat out of the cave, around 20 metres away.

Tai quickly reached him and secured him in a rescue tube, swimming him towards the rocks where Peter was waiting. Once out of the water, they assessed the patient and then communicated the next move with the IRB crew. With challenging conditions, there was only enough space to undertake single pickups. Tai jumped back into the water with the patient and the IRB quickly drove in to pick up the patient.

Getting swept back out to sea, Tai climbed onto the Maori Bay side of Sugar Loaf. The IRB came back to collect him and he was returned to the beach before the IRB returned to pick up Peter. Back on land, the patient was assessed by the medic and then flown to Auckland Hospital.

Within hours, Tai was back at his desk to continue his day.

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2014 - Whakatane

BP Rescue of the Year was awarded to Matthew, Peter and Katherine Craig for a daring rescue in rough seas on the coast between Whakatane and Ohope.

On Saturday, August 10, 2013, two Whakatane men had walked around the coast to Otarawairere to go diving and when they began making their way home in the evening, they became trapped by the rising tide.

With Katherine coordinating from the shore, Peter and his son Matthew headed out in an IRB with a spotlight hastily borrowed from a hunting friend. They found the men on the Ohope-side of the coast beneath Kohi Point. One collapsed and had symptoms of advanced hypothermia.

Matthew swam 50 metres through white water in a one-metre swell to the rock where the men were stranded. He towed the first to the IRB and then swam back to the rock and returned with the 42-year-old. Both men were transferred to a waiting Coastguard boat and then transferred to hospital by ambulance. In May, the trio were also awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Operational Activity at the 2013 New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) Council Awards in Wellington.

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2013 - Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service

The dramatic mass rescue of 10 rock fishermen at Port Waikato on Easter Monday, the final day of the patrol 2012/13 season, was an outstanding effort by volunteer lifeguards.

At 11.30am a mobile lifeguard patrol observed a group of fishermen who were at the southern end of the beach. They were stranded by the incoming tide on a rocky outcrop around 60 metres from the shoreline.

The group were fully clothed and had fishing equipment with them. With the tide on its way in, the surf was building and waves were beginning to crash over the rocks and lifeguards knew they had to act quickly.

Accessing the group from the seaward side was ruled out by three-metre waves and due to the rocks, it was also impractical to use an Inflatable Rescue Boat. Instead, lifeguards made the decision to access the area from the coastline and they made their way two kilometres around the coast armed with rescue tubes, life jackets, rescue boards and first aid equipment.

The lifeguards reached a small beach close to where the fishermen were stranded and a number of them swam 60 metres out to the rock and assisted them, one by one, back to shore. With the tide almost fully in, the lifeguards’ position on the small beach was now perilous as they were left with only a small space on the sand facing steep cliffs. After accessing alternative options, it was decided the quickest and safest way to get the fishermen to safety was to winch them out.

The rescue took four hours from the first observation of the fisherman to completion of the mission. The lifeguards involved demonstrated great skill in a rescue which involved extremely dangerous conditions. Had it not been a patrol day, the outcome could have been very different with potentially 10 people drowning.

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2012 - Piha Regional Guards, Piha Surf Life Saving Club

Piha Regional Lifeguards: Logan Adams, Kris O’Neill, Duncan Buchanan, Tommy Cantrell, Sam Bassett, Aaron Young, Anaru Clarke, Tom Jacka, Sam Jenkins

At just after 6pm on February 10, 2012 lifeguards Kris O’Neill and Tom Cantrell spotted four young men entering the water just south of Lion Rock. With the surf being large and rough, they were concerned. Kris jumped on the ATV and headed towards the men to advise them of the dangerous conditions.

While en route, the four individuals stepped off into a hole. The hole was feeding a very fast-moving rip and the men found themselves stuck in the current. Realising their predicament, they raised their hands for assistance. Kris quickly responded with a tube and fins.

From the Operations Room Patrol, Captain Logan Adams radioed Tom advising him to respond. Tom headed with a paddleboard to assist. At the same time, Logan notified Duncan Buchanan and Sam Bassett and they launched an IRB.

Kris reached three of the men, one being completely underwater, and pulled him up to the surface. He appeared unconscious. Securing the patient with a tube, Kris supported the two other patients as best he could. Meanwhile, Tom paddle out and helped stabilise the men while the IRB raced to pick up the patients. A local surfer also offered his board as a flotation device.

On their way out, Duncan and Sam located the fourth distressed swimmer and pulled the conscious but exhausted man into the IRB. Upon reaching Kris, Tom, and the patients, Duncan and Sam tried to pull the semiconscious patient who was holding on to Tom’s paddleboard into the IRB. With a set fast approaching and the patient unwilling to let go of the board, the IRB had to move out past the break to ensure the safety of all involved.

Kris managed to swim his patient out past the break while Duncan and Sam were able to pull a conscious patient into the boat safely. Meanwhile, Tom and his semiconscious patient along with the surfer and his conscious patient were forced to brace for the oncoming waves. Tom and the surfer were able to secure their patients and use the leverage of their boards to push them closer to shore, and once the set passed, to stand and begin walking them out of the water.

At this point, Tom’s semi-conscious patient became very weak and needed assistance walking. The semi-conscious patient then informed Tom that he had gone unconscious a few times and had swallowed a fair amount of water. Tom immediately signalled for additional assistance.

Having spoken to Tom, Kris ran to the ATV to retrieve the oxygen and resuscitation pack. Tom, Kris, Duncan, and Sam administered oxygen, treated the patient for shock, minor hypothermia, and monitored vitals while Logan notified Surfcom of the situation. Surfcom dispatched an ambulance.

The patient became nauseous and started throwing up, thus classifying him as a status two patient. As a result, Tom, Kris, and Duncan lifted the patient into the IRB and trailer for rapid transport off the beach. Once at the club, Tom, along with surf lifeguards Aaron Young and Tom Jacka carried the patient into the first aid room.

Surfcom and the RLS supervisor then requested the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to respond as they were concerned that the patient could deteriorate. Once the patient was placed in the first aid bed, Tom Cantrell checked lung sounds and vitals. Tom was unable to hear any water in the lungs. The patient was still cold, nauseous, pale, and had a rapid pulse with shallow but fast respirations. At this point, St John First Response arrived on scene and joined in on administering care. Due to the great work already done by the lifeguards and speedy response by the Piha first response, it was decided Westpac helicopter was not needed.

Due to the rapid response, extensive knowledge of the beach conditions, and thorough medical training of the lifeguards involved an otherwise certain fatality was prevented.


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2011 - Brook Rapson and Murray Phipps-Black, Worser Bay SLSC

On the 2nd March 2011, The East by West Ferry was on a regular trip between Seatoun and Wellington City when it was hit by a large wave that smashed the front windows.

As the ferry began filling with water the skipper sent out a mayday call and the 44 passengers and crew onboard were issue lifejackets and ordered onto the top deck.

Brook Rapson, a Worser Bay lifeguard who lives directly across from the surf club, saw the stricken vessel which was listing heavily towards the bow and immediately contacted Murray Phipps-Black (another Worser Bay club member that lives close by), he then raced across to the club to prep an IRB.

Within minutes Murray and Brook were launching the Worser Bay IRB and heading out towards the ferry which was now 100m offshore and drifting towards the rocks. Murray and Brook were the first on scene and completed six trips from the ferry to shore, transporting an estimated 30 people back to the safety of Worser Bay beach where they were met by police and taken into the clubrooms.

Once all the passengers were ashore, the IRB then proceeded back out to the Ferry to lend assistance and help manoeuvre it into the middle of Worser Bay where there was no danger to it hitting rocks.

The Police and Coastguard were on scene just as the last of the passengers were touching the shore. They provided the ferry with the portable pumps to begin pumping the water off the ferry.

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2010 - Thomas Goer, Chris Parker – Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi

On New Year’s Day, Chris Parker, a surf lifeguard at popular Kariaotahi Beach, south of Auckland, had finished his shift when two members of the public alerted him to a swimmer in trouble about 100 metres out to sea.

Chris, who was the only surf lifeguard remaining at the club, called for urgent back-up as he decided he had no choice but to launch an IRB on his own. With assistance from a member of the public, he got the IRB into the water. Battling three-metre swells, he made his way out to where the man had last been spotted.

Reaching the approximate location, he saw the struggling swimmer who was wearing a raincoat and in serious trouble another 50 metres further off-shore. The swimmer was ‘climbing the ladder’ – a term used by lifeguards to describe the initial stages of drowning.

Unable to perform a solo pick-up, Chris manoeuvred the IRB as close as possible to the patient and threw him a rescue tube. Chris was extremely concerned about how much longer the patient could support himself. Just as he was about to abando0n the IRB to attempt a tube rescue, back-up arrived in the form of Thomas Goer, who had responded to Chris’s call for help.

Advising the distressed swimmer that he had to leave to get help but would come back, Chris hastily made his way back towards the beach to pick up Thomas, who by then had waded out into waist-deep water to meet the IRB.

As the pair returned to the swimmer, they waited for a gap in the dumping surf to get him into the IRB. However, conditions were too treacherous and Thomas had to jump overboard and tow him toward the shore with a rescue tube. He successfully got the patient ashore, 750 metres north of where he was initially swimming.

The man was deeply distressed and lucky to be alive. If Chris and Thomas had not been at the beach after-hours or had not had the skills and experience to cope with large surf and difficult conditions, the patient would have very like drowned.

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2009 - Danny Tenhuevel, Christopher Butt, Amber Prestegard, Billie Haresnape, Dayna King, Ben Tapurau, Rick Wells, Sean Joyce and Ian Boyce, Muriwai Surf Life Saving Club

On Saturday 21 March a report came through of a boogie boarder being swept around the rocks near Maori Bay. Amber Prestegard and Billie Haresnape completed a full sweep of the area in an IRB but with testing conditions of 4-6ft dumping surf the lifeguards could not spot a boogie boarder in distress. Patrol Captain Danny Tenhuevel and Dayna King then proceeded on foot to the steps leading into the Sugarloaf Rock area.

Danny heard some yelling from a fisherman standing on a high ledge on Sugarloaf Rock. The fisherman was agitated and pointing to the water. Danny immediately radioed to base to send the IRB back and sent Dayna into the water to contact the fisherman and search for patients around Split Rock.

As Amber and Billie returned to the area they saw a person face down in the water. They quickly pulled up the lifeless body of a fisherman. Danny immediately radioed SurfCom to let them know of the situation and to request the Westpac rescue helicopter and an ambulance.

Amber and Billie raced the unconscious victim back to the beach where patrol members Rick Wells and Ian Boyce carried him up the beach and prepared resuscitation equipment. Showing no signs of breathing and an undetectable pulse, Amber commenced CPR, whilst Billie commenced oxygen therapy under the direction of Dayna. Rick and Ian provided scene management. After approximately two minutes of chest compressions, the victim aspirated water and begun to breathe weakly on his own. Amber and Billie continued to provide oxygen therapy and monitored the patient’s vital signs. The patient’s condition began to improve and he was responsive to pain and verbal stimuli by the time the Westpac helicopter arrived.

Lifeguards returned to Sugarloaf Rock where Dayna again made contact with the stranded fisherman and encouraged him into the water and into a waiting IRB crewed by Ben Tapurau and Sean Joyce. Dayna swam back around Sugarloaf Rock to check for other potential victims, but due to the large surf, she was unable to continue her search.

The Westpac rescue helicopter with senior lifeguard Christopher Butt performed an aerial search for a possible second patient. The resuscitated fisherman’s status had begun to rapidly decline so the helicopter returned to transport the patient to hospital. He was still in intensive care the next day.

The resuscitated fisherman’s survival and the successful rescue of another fisherman at the same time is testament to the skill and bravery of the volunteer lifeguards at Muriwai Beach.

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2008 - Nathan Smith & Liam O'Toole - Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club

Nathan was out surfing on his knee board in rough two metre surf when a member of the public began waving from the beach to get his attention to assist a group of swimmers further down the beach who were caught in a rip.

Nathan paddled out to a group of three girls and informed them he was a lifeguard and was here to help. He then proceeded to assist them back to the beach. Once back at shore they informed him that there were more girls further out in the rip.
Nathan quickly returned to the water and headed through the rip and spotted one more female who was in severe difficulty. The girl was exhausted, spluttering and beginning to loose consciousness. Nathan got of his knee board to assess her and put her on the board so he could return to shore. By the time Nathan got back to shore with this patient there was a police officer to assist him.

On arrival back at the beach he was informed that there was still another girl and she hadn’t been seen for more than ten minutes. Nathan went out for the third time to search for the last swimmer.

He proceeded further out beyond the waves where there was a lot of white water and continued to search for five minutes. He sighted the swimmer who was semi submerged ten metres away. As he approached the swimmer she disappeared totally under the water. The white water of the waves made it difficult to see her, and on the third wave she reappeared two metres away. Nathan paddled over to her and grabbed her arm, he got off his board and pulled her close while he turned his board sideways and supported her with his arms and the board.

He assessed her quickly and found her to be unconscious and limp. Nathan repositioned her firmly on the board and headed back to shore. On arrival back at the shore she began to regain consciousness and started mumbling and spluttering. Nathan assessed the patient and left her with the police officer who had called for an ambulance.

He ran up to the club and got oxygen and alerted other club members to the incident. He took the quad bike and oxygen down to the patients and was joined by Liam O’Toole. The patients were transported to the club where they were monitored until the Ambulance arrived.

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2007 - Bay of Plenty Regional Lifeguards Pukehina Beach: Lilah Foote, Rebekah Gee, Briar Macken

On January 11, 2007, Lilah Foote, Rebekah Gee and Briar Macken finished an early morning training session in Mount Maunganui and came back to Pukehina Beach in the Bay of Plenty for a quiet morning of patrolling.

The Pukehina estuary mouth can be a treacherous piece of water, guarded by a constantly shifting sand bar, and on this day a messy 1.5m swell was causing added concern.

Head lifeguard Lilah Foote was on tower duty at around midday when she noticed a 6m Scorpion craft returning to port and preparing to cross the bar. She monitored the boat intently, and when a large wave caught it from behind and flipped it, she sprang into action.

Lilah and Rebekah Gee immediately closed the patrolled swimming area and launched an IRB in the estuary for a more direct route, while Briar Macken raced along the beach to provide support.

On arrival, Lilah and Rebekah found a man in a lifejacket clinging desperately to the side of the vessel, amid copious amounts of floating debris, and were informed there were four other people – a mother, teenager and two small children – still unaccounted for.

Rebekah established the driver had no significant injuries and advised him to remove his lifejacket and heavy clothing in the pounding surf. She then dived under the boat and discovered the four missing people were likely trapped in the upturned cabin of the boat.

Unable to provide support with the IRB in the surf, Lilah piloted it to nearby Newdicks Beach, grabbed her fins and swam back out to the scene.

Diving under, Lilah tried several times to free the trapped passengers without success, and quickly grasping the enormity of the situation, instructed Briar to call other emergency services.

Given large fish bins were obstructing the cabin doorway, Lilah established the only way to rescue the trapped occupants would be to right the boat, which was now stuck firmly in place by the anchor and cable, which had come loose.

Two members of the public swam out with life jackets and a knife to assist the rescue, while Rebekah and Lilah sought signs of life from the trapped occupants. As the two helpers – one a former lifeguard – arrived, a whistle sounded under the boat, and with renewed hope, Rebekah cut the anchor line and everyone lifted one side of the boat.

Lilah and the driver dragged the four occupants free and they were quickly ushered to shore on the Newdicks Beach side. All five on board the boat appeared to have only minor injuries, but the lifeguards established the two children had a severe blood-clotting disorder, so Lilah and Rebekah skilfully re-launched the IRB through rocks and surf with the mother and children on board, in order to meet the ambulance on the Pukehina side.

They returned to pick up those remaining on the other side and helped secure the boat so that it could be salvaged later.

The whole rescue took more than 90mins of hectic, adrenalin-fuelled activity – but in true professionalism, once they’d been debriefed, the three lifeguards calmed their nerves, re-established a flagged area and continued their patrol for the rest of the day.

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2006 - Northern Region Lifeguards

On January 10 2006, Climatech Regional Lifeguards patrolling South Piha Beach were managing a large crowd of 120 swimmers on a very hot and sunny day. Surf conditions were four metres and Lifeguards were kept busy keeping people between the flags using IRBs and Lifeguards swimming with rescue tubes.

At midday, Lifeguards spotted a surfer in difficulty and went to his aid. As they were attending to him the largest surf of the day swept through the flagged area and pulled seven swimmers out of the flags and into a rip near Lion Rock. All seven swimmers were pulled around the front of Lion Rock, becoming exposed to the massive ocean swells.

The Lifeguards launched three IRBs to the scene and made contact with SurfCom (radio base) to dispatch the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

While the IRBs went out to Lion Rock, Patrol Captain Duncan Clarke closed the flagged area of the beach, encouraging people to stay out of the water and remain safe.

On approaching Lion Rock the Lifeguards were confronted with large crashing surf and seven swimmers in various locations and states of distress, many of them being thrown against the rocks.

Discovering one of the swimmers face down in the water, an IRB crew picked him up and returned him to the beach. Resuscitation commenced and after some time the patient was revived and taken by Westpac Rescue Helicopter to hospital where he made a full recovery.

All of the swimmers were retrieved from the surf and safely brought back to the beach. The fact the Lifeguards managed to keep over 1,000 beach-goers safe and out of the water while the rescue was happening was testament to their management skills and forward-thinking.

“The actions of the Lifeguards on duty were exceptional,” said SLSNZ CEO, Geoff Barry. “They showed complete professionalism in an extremely stressful situation. Their quick actions and the procedures they followed certainly prevented multiple tragedies at Piha that day.”


The incident was captured by camera and aired on television as part of Piha Rescue.

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