A dramatic mass rescue at Kariaotahi has won a regional surf lifesaving award after off-duty lifeguards pulled multiple swimmers from a dangerous rip.
Each month, Surf Life Saving New Zealand selects a winning rescue from each region as well as an overall national winner for the title of BP Rescue of the Month. Kariaotahi Surf Life Saving Club has won the Northern Region Rescue of the Month award for March.
It was an hour after a full day of patrolling on March 29 when six senior lifeguards and a junior lifeguard decided to go for a body surf at Kariaotahi Beach.
After half an hour, Guy Hornblow and Alex Van Tilburg noticed an unmanned boogie board being thrown over the waves roughly 200m away. Catching the other lifeguards' attention, the group used the next swell for elevation to search and they noticed three heads about 150m offshore struggling to stay afloat. Using the direction of current and swell, the lifeguards swam over to the group who were in grave difficulty.
Cameron Burrows arrived first and saw that one male patient was supporting a young female child above the water. He was also trying to support a third patient, also a young female, who was beginning to submerge. Cameron quickly grabbed the one who had gone under and began a no-equipment rescue.
Guy proceeded to help the young girl who was being supported by the older male. She was now holding him under the water in an attempt to stay afloat. Guy managed to separate the pair and undertook a rescue of the female patient, again with no equipment. Alex and junior lifeguard Zach Butters then towed the man back to shore.
Ben Coers, Lee Lawrence and Eoin Elliot, upon seeing that the three primary patients were each supported by a lifeguard, noticed another group of three young children were stuck in the same rip closer to shore. As they returned to shore they collected two more young male patients also in difficulty, thus supporting a total of five patients between them.
Together, the seven lifeguards rescued a total of eight patients.
Their job not yet finished, the lifeguards noticed another group of four swimmers entering the rip where, only moments before, the eight patients had been pulled out. They instructed them to stop before they entered the water.
The lifeguards provided first aid to the patients who required the most assistance and wrapped them in blankets to keep them warm. None required hospitalisation and they were sent home along with warnings about swimming unsupervised outside of patrol hours.
A debrief amongst the lifeguards was then the conclusion to an evening that could have easily ended tragically with the loss of eight lives.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand chairman Michael Bassett-Foss says the extraordinary efforts shown by the Lifeguards was outstanding. "Admiration of the skill and professionalism shown by those involved in the incident is testament to qualities valued by Surf Life Saving New Zealand and BP," he says.
Nominations for the period ending April 30 will be announced on May 10.