Rescue of fisherman at Piha earns second place in BP Rescue of the Month

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The rescue of a fisherman swept into the water at Fisherman’s Rock has earned United North Piha Lifeguard Service second place in the December 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 recognises operational excellence by Surf Lifeguards around the country.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Community Education Manager Dr Mick Kearney says the December 8, 2019 incident highlights the importance of public rescue equipment, fishing with a friend and calling 111 in an emergency.

Off duty volunteer Surf Lifeguards had just begun IRB (inflatable rescue boat) training before patrol started when the club received a call from SurfCom, the Surf Lifesaving Comms Centre in Auckland, at about 9.50am, advising them of a man who had fallen off the rocks at Fisherman's Rock south of Piha beach.

He was in the water about 50m out from the rocks.

Off duty Surf Lifeguard Victoria Mulrennan, and Patrol Support Grace Crimmins radioed to the IRB training group on the beach, to alert them to the situation and prepare them to launch.

Surf Lifeguards Nathan Westerkamp and Linden Rose launched one IRB, while Surf Lifeguards Simon Reilly and Robert Parsons launched a second, heading towards the south end of Piha.

Victoria and Grace received more information from SurfCom – the man was in an angel ring and now floating approximately 100m off the rocks.

The two IRB crews had to battle significantly large surf out the back of the beach to reach the man.

When they arrived in the area off Fisherman's Rock, they spotted him in the angel ring. He was wearing an inflatable lifejacket, but it had not been deployed.

Linden and Nathan manoeuvred through the large waves to pick him up.

He was taken to Piha Surf Life Saving Club’s first aid room, where he was assessed by Surf Lifeguards and St John Piha First Response before being taken to hospital via ambulance for precautionary assessment of hypothermia and water inhalation.

United North Piha Lifeguard Service Director of Lifesaving Victoria Mulrennan says the man had been fishing with a friend when he was knocked off the rocks by a wave.

They had both had been wearing life jackets, but the man in the water had not inflated his once he had been washed off the rocks. The friend on the rocks immediately threw him the angel ring for safety.

They had a radio with them and used that to contact his wife, who was sitting at Piha Beach, to tell her to call 111 for help.

“When the patient was found he had been quickly going further out to sea, into the large surf,” says Victoria says.

“Without lifeguards there to pull him in as quickly as we did, his condition would have been significantly worse, if he got rescued at all,” she says.

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

“BP is incredibly proud to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand since 1968,” BP NZ Managing Director Debi Boffa says.

“We are continually impressed by the incredible skills and bravery of Surf Lifeguards all over the country, and this rescue is another great example of the heroism they show in keeping us safe at the beach.”

Ruakaka and Waipu Cove Surf Lifesaving Clubs placed first and will share $500 worth of BP gift cards. Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club will receive $200 worth for placing third.

Dr Kearney says the successful outcome of this rescue highlights the importance of following safety messaging around rock fishing:

- Check the conditions
- Always wear a lifejacket, and know how to use it
- Never fish alone and always let someone know when you will be returning home
- Always wear the correct equipment, such as light clothing and sturdy footwear
- Beware of waves and swells, never turn your back to the surf and keep an eye on the tide so you don't get caught
- Call 111 and ask for police if you see someone in trouble.

“This man and his friend were well prepared and knew what to do in emergency. However, although the fisherman in the water did have on a gas inflatable lifejacket, he was unaware of how it worked and failed to pull the tab to inflate it.

“The angel ring certainly helped save the day and it showed the importance of knowing your gear before going out to sea. He was lucky the off duty volunteer Surf Lifeguards were at the beach.”


For more information please contact:

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