Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service wins first place in BP Rescue of the Month

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Volunteers from Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services have been recognised for the vital part they played in ensuring the body of a 17-year-old caught in a rip and swept out to sea was returned to his family.

The club has earnt first place in the February round of BP Rescue of the Month.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand invites clubs to submit their rescues to be judged for the title of BP Rescue of the Month, which acknowledges operational excellence by Surf Lifeguards around the country.

Waihi Emergency Call Out Squad coordinator Andrew Cochrane says the incident happened at the north end of the beach at about 12.40pm on February 21 while the beach was not being patrolled.

An off-duty Surf Lifeguard was told that someone was in trouble near the rocks so an IRB (inflatable rescue boat) was set up and the Emergency Call Out Squad activated.

Another off-duty Surf Lifeguard had been helping out with a surf school near where the incident happened and joined them. They were launching from the spot the teenager, a non-swimmer, was last seen within five minutes of the alarm being raised.

A local surfer also paddled out with a rescue tube.

Andrew arrived at the surf club and coordinated the search – the Rescue Water Craft was sent to search around the rocks where the rip current leads out to sea, a second IRB was deployed, two Surf lifeguards searched in the water, the police arrived and a former Surf Lifeguard was sent to walk along the top of the tracks to get an overhead view of the area.

The rescue helicopter and Waihi Beach Coastguard also arrived to help, while the boy’s classmates and teachers were taken into the club lounge and offered food and water.

Members of the Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services.

The search continued, with crews for the IRBs and RWC being replaced every hour or so due to the rough conditions and fatigue.

A shore line search was carried out via the all-terrain vehicle to see if the teenager had been swept ashore.

The search continued until around 6pm when it was called off for the night due to the conditions and fading light.

Over the coming days the boy’s family were looked after by the club members, the Red Cross Katikati Community Relief Team, the Otawhiwhi Marae and the Maori Wardens.

Multiple searches were carried out each day until the morning of March 1 when the teenager’s body was found north of Whiritoa Beach, by Whiritoa Surf Lifeguards.

He was found more than 16km up the coast from where he disappeared.

The Surf Lifeguards involved in bringing the teenager’s body home will be recognised with $500 worth of BP gift vouchers for their club. 

“The outcome was unfortunately tragic and our thoughts are with the young man’s family and the Surf Lifeguards involved,” BP NZ Managing Director Debi Boffa says.

“We know that IRBs are important to Surf Clubs all over the country and this is another example of why that’s the case. We would like to acknowledge and recognise the tenacity and incredible commitment of the lifeguards who were involved.

“We’re incredibly proud to have supported Surf Life Saving for 52 years, and to have the opportunity to recognise the outstanding skills shown in this incident.”

Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi and Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service will receive $300 and $200 BP gift cards respectively as BP Rescue of the Month second and third place getters.


For more information, please contact:

Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving New Zealand
021 757 433