Rescue of seven people earns second place in rescue competition

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Volunteer Surf Lifeguards who helped rescue seven people in the space of five minutes have been commended for their actions.

Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi members have earnt second place in the BP Rescue of the Month competition for January.

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 Alex Taylor says the rescue happened at around 2.30pm on January 11 and started after two boogie boarders were swept off their feet by receding water on the southern corner of the flagged area.

They drifted offshore, unable to make progress against the current.

Lifeguards who were in the process of handing over the flag duty spotted the incident and immediately radioed the club to request assistance and advise that two Surf Lifeguards, Harrison Munday and Clayne O’Reilly, were getting into the water for tube rescues.

The second pair of Surf Lifeguards would remain on the beach to observe the incident and patrol the flagged area.

Alex says that as this was happening, five members of the public tried to help the boogie boarders and swam deeper into the water in an effort to reach them.

“However, they ended up beyond their depth and were also unable to return to shore,” he says.

Seven people now required assistance, with the patients ranging from age 12 to 20.

At the clubhouse, Alex assigned Taylor Harvey and Luke Neidhart to the IRB which they quickly launched.

Surf Lifeguards Guy Hornblow and James Burton also rushed to the scene and swam out with rescue tubes.

Alex says by this point the IRB was on the scene and beginning to retrieve the people.

“Priority was given to the younger patients who were beginning to tire.”

He says the rescue conditions were difficult due to choppy, unpredictable surf and some of the people wearing clothes.

“However the crew of Taylor and Luke expertly ferried patients to shallower water before returning to assist at sea.”

The four Surf Lifeguards with rescue tubes worked together to ensure all the patients stayed afloat until the IRB could return them to shore, while Guy and James each completed a full tube rescue returning their patients to shore.

“From the time the first boogie boarders were swept out, to the time everyone was returned to shore less than 5 minutes had passed,” Alex says.

With all lifeguards back on dry land and the flagged area continuing to be monitored, each patient was assessed and recovered after a short rest on the beach. 

“From start to finish this incident was handled with safe but remarkably efficient practises.”

He says the initial radio calls were made calmly and professionally, and Harrison and Clayne, the two initial responding lifeguards, ensured those in the most distress stayed afloat and calm while they waited for more help.

“The IRB crew showed incredible skill when retrieving patients from the water as they had as many as 11 people in the water plus four tubes to avoid.”

The Surf Lifeguards involved will be recognised with a $300 BP gift voucher for their club.

“The skills and dedication shown by the Surf Life Saving team in the course of this rescue is another outstanding example of these heroes in action,” BP NZ Managing Director Debi Boffa says.

“It’s a privilege to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for 52 years.”

Taranaki seasonally employed Surf Lifeguards and Whangārei Heads Volunteer Surf Life Saving Patrol 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