Mass rescue earns second place in BP Rescue of the Month

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

The rescue of 12 people from a flash rip on Waitangi Day has won Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi second place in the February round of Surf Life Saving NZ’s BP Rescue of the Month competition.

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.

Patrol Captain Tara Coe says it was 5.05pm and the volunteers had just finished their patrol after a busy day at the beach.

“Surf Lifeguards were in the water telling swimmers that they were now off duty when a flash rip opened up to the south,” she says. “It sucked 12 swimmers over the half tide sand bar and into a trough.

“Surf Lifeguards launched an IRB (inflatable rescue boat) and Surf Lifeguards with rescue tubes swam out to the swimmers who had gotten into difficulty.”

In total seven swimmers were rescued in an IRB and five by Surf Lifeguards with rescue tubes.

One person was pulled from the water unconscious but breathing. Tara says Surf Lifeguards put the patient in the recovery position and monitored his vital signs until an Ambulance arrived.

“A lifeguard’s father had just turned up to pick them up and happened to be a doctor, he headed to the beach and offered his support, helping the lifeguards bring the patient back to consciousness.”

The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later and the patient was taken to hospital. Everyone else who had been rescued was checked over by Surf Lifeguards and left the beach in a stable condition.

Tara says because the surf conditions were more than two metres, and it was half tide on an incoming tide, the IRB skills required to navigate the rescue were “immense”.

“The driver and crew needed to be in sync in order to pull off multiple rescues at once.”

She says crowd control and incident management skills played a big part in the rescue as a large crowd was forming on the beach and lifeguards were unsure of how many people were left in the water.

“The sun was lowering which meant the glare on the water was making it almost impossible to see, impacting on visibility.”

Tara says had Surf Lifeguards not still been at the beach, “we potentially could have lost 12 lives”.

The Kariaotahi Surf Lifeguards involved in the rescue will be recognised with $300 worth of BP gift vouchers for their club. 

“This rescue is yet another example of the importance of IRBs to Surf Clubs all over the country, and testament to the skills and tenacity of the Surf Life Guards who keep us safe at the beach,” BP NZ Managing Director Debi Boffa says.

“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 rescue.”

Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services and Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service will receive $500 and $200 BP gift cards respectively as BP Rescue of the Month first and third place getters.


For more information, please contact:

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