Karekare SLSC Call-Out Squad Recognised for Recovery of Drowning Victim

Friday, 18 December 2020

Press release

December 18, 2020

Karekare SLSC Call-Out Squad (ECOS) has received 2nd place for bp Rescue of the Month as the result of an emotional off-season drowning victim recovery.

Tuesday, May 19th, was an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon.

Avondale College had offered students an extra day off and four female students decided to make the most of it by spending the afternoon at Karekare Beach on Auckland’s west coast.

They chose a part of the beach that, to the untrained eye, appeared safe – yet, sadly, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The waves sloshed uneven and broken and the rip’s dark water swirled with black sand as it swooped along the beach and relentlessly out to sea. 

Shortly before 3pm, two hikers raised the alarm that three girls were in trouble in the water and a fourth was missing. Karekare Surf Life Saving Club Emergency Call-Out Squad (ECOS) members, Shawn Wanden-Hannay, Sam Turbott and Shalema Wanden-Hannay, responded. Upon reaching the beach, three of the girls had managed to self-rescue. The fourth was still missing.

Within just eight minutes of receiving the call, Shawn Wanden-Hannay had run 900m to the foreshore with rescue tube and fins. Using his experience of rips and water movement to gauge where the patient was likely pulled, he entered the water. He headed out through the surf and, within minutes, located the patient face down in the water.

Wanden-Hannay pulled the young girl back to shore, where he was met by fellow ECOS members. He began CPR as soon as he returned the patient to shore. Turbott then took over on arrival with the defibrillator.  

Meanwhile, fellow ECOS members David Munro, John Taylor and Gareth Abraham assessed and supported the three other girls, who were all suffering from shock and signs of hypothermia and were clearly distressed.

Support also came from local rural fire team and local first response members. The patient was transferred to the rescue helicopter but sadly passed away en route to the hospital, despite the best efforts from all involved to save her. 

Her three friends were transported to hospital via ambulance for observation.

Whilst this was by no means the outcome the ECOS volunteers wanted, the response times, valuable knowledge of surf conditions and efficient retrieval of the patient gave this young woman every possible chance.

At the time of this incident, New Zealand was in a state of heightened alert due to Covid-19. The support from other emergency services and community members helped immensely in ensuring a rapid response.

Sadly, despite the best efforts and exemplary lifeguarding skills exhibited by the ECOS members, the outcome for the patient was tragic. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to this young woman’s family.

bp NZ Managing Director, Debi Boffa, says bp is “incredibly proud” to support the efforts of Surf Lifeguards.

“bp has been in partnership with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for 52 years and we are incredibly proud to support their heroic efforts in keeping New Zealanders safe,” she says.

“This recovery is yet another example of the huge difference Surf Lifeguards make on beaches all over the country.”

As the second-place recipient of bp Rescue of the Month, Karekare SLSC will be recognised with $300-worth of bp gift vouchers.



RELAX and float to conserve your energy: The rip will not pull you under the water and is just taking you for a ride offshore. Try to fight the urge to swim back to shore against the current – this will use up energy that you need to stay afloat until help arrives.

RAISE your hand to signal for help: Signal for help by putting your hand up to attract attention from lifeguards, surfers or someone on the beach who can get help.

RIDE the rip until it stops and you can swim back to shore or help arrives: Remain floating until the current weakens. Many rips will circulate and bring you back into shallower waters closer to the shore where you may be able to stand. Only if and when the current has subsided, and you are sure you can swim to the nearest point on the shore, should you attempt to swim to safety.



If there are lifeguards on patrol, let them know. If you can’t see any lifeguards, CALL 111 & ASK FOR THE POLICE. They have a direct line to our emergency call-out squads across New Zealand and Coastguard NZ as well.



SLSNZ is the national association representing 74 surf lifesaving clubs with 18,000+ members, including more than 4,500 volunteer Surf Lifeguards. Our lifeguards patrol over 90 locations each summer and provide emergency call-out rescue services throughout Aotearoa, saving hundreds of lives each year and ensuring thousands return home safe after a day at the beach.

We do all this as a charity and rely on the generosity of the public, commercial partners, foundations and trusts for donations and financial contributions in order to lead and support our incredible front-line volunteer lifeguarding services.

For more information, please contact:

Mackenzie Koppel
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433