Whangārei Heads Surf Lifeguards recognised after incident at Awahoa Bay

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Surf Lifeguards Lindsay Hill, Kyran Gillespie and Josh Maxwell were involved in the recovery of a divers body that earnt Whangārei Heads Volunteer Surf Life Saving Patrol third place in BP Rescue of the Month, January. 


The recovery of a diver’s body at Awahoa Bay on Whangārei’s East Coast has earnt Whangārei Heads Volunteer Surf Life Saving Patrol an award.

The efforts of the volunteer Surf Lifeguards have seen them take third 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.

Just after midday on January 27, SurfCom was alerted by Coastguard Northern Region that a member of the public had called to report that their dive partner had not resurfaced at Awahoa Bay on Whangārei’s East Coast. 

Surf Lifeguard John-Michael Swannix says at 12.15pm Whangārei Heads Volunteer Surf Lifeguards were contacted and Patrol Captain Lindsay Hill made the call to respond with an IRB. He took with him Senior Lifeguard Josh Maxwell, leaving Deputy Patrol Captain Nicola Howes in charge of the patrol.

Kyran Gillespie was operating the Bream Bay Rescue Jet Ski that day and responded from Ruakākā.

At 12.44pm, Lindsay and Josh arrived at Kauri Mountain in the IRB and were asked to do a shoreline search north to Awahoa Bay.

Kyran went straight to Awahoa Bay and Tutukākā Rescue, Coastguard’s on scene command vessel, asked him to do a drift search.

Just after 1pm the body of the missing man was found.

While the ultimate outcome of this Search and Rescue operation was tragic, the actions of the lifeguards helped return the body of a missing loved one to their family.

John-Michael says Josh and Kyran did a great job in the challenging circumstances.   

“Coastguard also commended the lifeguards’ care and professionalism while searching for and dealing with the deceased patient.”

Because of the distance from the club, the IRB crew and Jet Ski operator had to think ahead about the amount of fuel they had, the search and rescue gear they were bringing and also about taking a cellphone in a wet bag as a second communications link in case the surf radio network was patchy at that distance from the club.

“The decisions made by the lifeguards, in particular Lindsay as Patrol Captain, were text book in their execution. It meant Surf Life Saving was able to make a big contribution to the unfolding SAR operation, while minimising the exposure of junior lifeguards to a traumatic incident.”

The Surf Lifeguards involved will be recognised with a $200 BP gift voucher for their club.

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

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

Taranaki seasonally employed Surf Lifeguards and Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi will receive $500 and $300 BP gift cards respectively as BP Rescue of the Month first and second place getters.


For more information, please contact:
Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving New Zealand
021 757 433