A dramatic rescue near Purakaunui has won a national surf lifesaving award after lifeguards helped save a large group of school students 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. Lifeguards from St Kilda, St Clair and Sunset Beach Surf Life Saving Clubs have won the BP Rescue of the Month award for March.
While setting up for the Southern IRB Championships at Warrington on Friday March 1, the lifeguards were alerted to a 13 year-old who was close to drowning around the Purakaunui area.
Dunedin surfer had gone to her aid when she and around 80 other Year Nine students from Columba College, had got caught in a rip. Fortunately the IRB crews were working nearby and were able to send out a boat quickly to assist. Max Corboy and Cameron Third, along with other club members who were at Warrington, helped to get an IRB ready and launched. A second IRB was set up and launched by Arthur Ibbotson and Sam Dwen.
Max and Cameron arrived into the surf and took the distressed girl who was being supported by the surfer from out the back of the break. On their way back to shore they found around 10-15 girls clinging to a tyre tube and onto one another. They were all in distress and couldn't touch the bottom.
The rescue helicopter had just landed as the lifeguards arrived. Paul Sharp, Cameron and Max swam out to the group and assisted them into the shore.
Back on land, Cameron split the group into two sections; the students who were uninjured and the ones who needed treatment. When fire, police and ambulance crews arrived, Cameron gave them a handover briefing and they then took over the scene control and treatment.
Four of the students were taken in the helicopter and six were transported by ambulance to the hospital. One student remained in hospital overnight.
The lifeguards demonstrated great skill driving the IRBs through two meter swells and then a five to 10 minute drive along to Purakaunui. They also showed leadership by splitting up the group until the police arrived on scene. Had the lifeguards not been in the area with their IRBs setting up for the champs that weekend, it could have been a very different story.
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.
The club receives a $100 fuel voucher from BP to help with the financial costs of keeping communities safe in the water.
Nominations for the period ending April 30 will be announced on May 10.