The daring rescue of a surfer, caught against the rocks at Muriwai on September 29, has won a national surf lifesaving award.
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 Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service have won the Northern Region Rescue of the Month award for the winter season as well as being the overall national winner.
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 to find 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.
He was then washed out of the cave by a set a waves and Tai promptly secured him into a rescue tube, taking him to the safety of the rocks where Peter was waiting. Due to the challenging conditions, the IRB was only able to undertake single pick-ups, returning them all safely to shore.
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.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Chairman Geoff Hamilton 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 $500 fuel voucher from BP to help with the financial costs of keeping communities safe in the water.
BP Managing Director Matt Elliott says "BP's partnership with Surf Life Saving New Zealand is heading towards 50 years and their constant delivery of excellence has been a factor in all of those years- it is truly inspirational."
For more information about BP Rescue of the Month, click here.
National winner- Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service
Northern- Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service
Eastern- Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service
Central- Levin-Waitarere Surf Life Saving Club
Southern- Taylor's Mistake Surf Life Saving Club
Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823