Lifeguards on hand for three pre-season rescues

Monday, 7 October 2013

As the weather heated up this weekend, there were three incidents that took place at beaches around the country- but luckily, surf lifeguards were on hand to assist.

Sixteen year-old Hot Water Beach clubbie James Lee saved four people from a rip on Saturday.

He says he had been down at the beach training and happened to be in the right place at the right time. "I didn't hesitate, I spotted people in trouble and I went to help them," he says.

He first rescued two young boys who were being dragged out to sea and within around 10 minutes of pulling them in, he had to rescue another man who couldn't swim. As he was pulling the man to safety, he realised another man was also in need of help.

James says usually he would be equipped with rescue gear and there would be other lifeguards on hand to assist, but he was the only lifeguard on scene. "That was weighing on me most, the fact that if I didn't get to these people, they'd drown."

On Sunday afternoon, two clubbies assisted in the rescue of a group of swimmers at Waimarama Beach in the Hawkes Bay.

Waimarama Surf Life Saving Club chairman Kim Nilsson says Luke Harman and Travis Wainwright had been IRB training and were surfing further down the beach. When they were alerted to the incident, they launched an IRB to assist with the rescue. They were directed by on-beach spectators to where a missing swimmer was last seen, but a couple of jetskiers had managed to pick him up, he says.

Mr Nilsson says there was heavy sea fog which hampered the search. "You could barely see the club house 30 metres back on shore," he says.

Also on Sunday afternoon, Ben (17) and Ashley (18) Cochrane from Omanu SLSC saved some children from a rip at Tay Street.

Ben says he and Ashley were having an ice cream around 400m from the water when they saw swimmers getting close to a very large rip. "We thought uh-oh this could be trouble and walked down to the water and sure enough they were sucked out about 70m from the shore line," he says. Ashley grabbed a surfboard and Ben headed into the water.

Ben says the kids were terrified and they could hear them screaming. He held one boy, aged around seven, and kept him afloat while Ashley paddled the surfboard over. Ben paddled the boy to shore on the board while Ashley helped pull in two slightly older boys who also needed assistance.

Ben says they are glad they reacted when they first saw the swimmers headed for trouble. "It's spooky as we're not normally there and this was one of the biggest rips I've seen on our coastline."

Once the children were reunited with their parents, the siblings advised the children where they should be swimming to avoid danger in the future.

The incidents are a reminder that swimmers need to be extra cautious ahead of the patrol season which officially launches at Labour Weekend.

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