Teen lifeguards save man after he has a heart attack at New Plymouth beach

Friday, 13 December 2019

Ethan Matuku helped saved a man's life on Friday morning after he had a cardiac arrest. Brian Velvin said he was proud of Ethan.

By Brianna McIlraith, Taranaki Daily News

Two teenagers have been credited with saving a man's life after he suffered a heart attack at a New Plymouth beach on Friday morning.

Ethan Matuku, 16, was at the Fitzroy Beach Surf Lifesaving Club for training at 8.15am when a 57-year-old man left the surf and fell to the sand.

"The dude collapsed and I didn't know if he was having a sleep or something was wrong, but then he started seizing up," he said.

Matuku, who had taken a refresher first aid course only three weeks ago, ran down with fellow lifeguard Alex Fraser, 18, while other members of the club rushed to get a defibrillator and first aid supplies.

​"She was right next to me the whole time," he said of Alex's support.

Putting the man in the recovery position, it was obvious he wasn't in a good way and action needed to be taken fast.

"His jaw was completely locked in and he was shaking and he was purple because he couldn't breathe," Matuku said.

"I just went into the zone, went back to my training."

Emergency services and surf life saving club members transported the man off the beach in an IRB.

A nearby nurse and lifeguard came down to assist with first aid supplies. They put a tube down the man's throat to clear his airway and Ethan began CPR as the victim had no pulse. 

"He died basically," Matuku said.

He couldn't remember how long he did CPR. It felt like a lifetime before they gave the man a shock with the defibrillator, he said. It was the defibrillator that brought the man around, though he kept falling in and out of consciousness.

"I was there the whole time, I wasn't going to leave until he left," Matuku said.

Matuku has only been a lifeguard for two years and has never had to deal with such a situation before.  Club patron Brian Velvin said it was the training and perserverance of the lifeguards which made all the difference.

"It kicked in today and they saved someone's life," he said.

"We're really proud of them that's for sure."

Velvin said such circumstances could be very traumatic and both lifeguards had been offered counselling.

A Taranaki District Health Board spokesperson said the man was in a stable condition in the intensive care unit after suffering a cardiac arrest.

It comes after a hectic week at Fitzroy Beach, where 14 rescues were carried in two days due to a large rip that had developed. On Wednesday four friends pulled five kids from the rip.


This article was written by Brianna McIlraith, Taranaki Daily News and published on Friday, 13 December, 2019.