Surf Lifeguards earn award for saving one of their own at national event

Friday, 15 May 2020

Pictured from left, Samuel Teteina, from Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Patrol, Georgia Eldridge, from Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services, Phoebe Havill from Onemana Surf Life Saving Club, Kenjiro Takano from Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club, and Luke Jennings from Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Patrol were part of the first aid team at the 2020 TSB New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships (TSB Nationals). Luke, Georgia and Kenji were among those that helped resuscitate a competitor.

The actions of volunteer Surf Lifeguards to save the life of “one of their own” during a national Masters competition have gained them second place in the March 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 acknowledges operational excellence by Surf Lifeguards around the country.

The award recognises the competition’s Event Management and First Aid team who responded to the incident that happened on March 12, day one of the 2020 TSB New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships (TSB Nationals) being held at Midway Beach, Gisborne.

James Lloyd, director of lifeguarding at Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services, was one of the Event Safety Officers at the competition and says a call came over the PA system at around 9.10am asking for urgent first aid assistance. A competitor had suffered a cardiac arrest.

“A great concern to all those around was the fact that this was one of their own – a lifeguard,” James says. 

“While not in the water, this incident was in a very difficult, stressful environment. It occurred in the middle of the sand dunes, on a soft sand surface that was undulating and covered in plants.”

Brook Sanderson and Dr Andrew Vane from Omanu Surf Life Saving Club were nearby and initially assessed the man and started CPR.

Event First Aid team member Luke Jennings, from Bethells Beach Surf Lifesaving Patrol, was also nearby and responded quickly.

The man was moved to firmer ground, knowing that effective compressions would be compromised if they didn’t.

The location also had poor direct access to roads, or direct footpath access and was surrounded by numerous club tents, and hundreds of athletes/spectators.

Luke, a paramedic, took over CPR compressions and 111 was called. The call was handed over to James who provided the 111 operator with updates while both fire and ambulance were dispatched.

Fellow First Aid team members Georgia Eldridge (Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services), and Kenjiro Takano (Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club) arrived with a defibrillator.

“The man was pale, unresponsive, and more importantly, not breathing,” James says.

Among the competing athletes were other off-duty medical professionals Jill Barron and Jan Campbell (both from Mt Maunganui Lifeguard Service) who were quick to assist.

James says the defibrillator was used within minutes of the man’s collapse and a shock was given. After another round of CPR the man started vomiting and a pulse was detected.

The man was rolled onto his side, airways cleared and he began to show “minor signs of life”.

Event Safety Officers Roydon Woodcock (Mairangi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club) and Mike Smith (Taylors Mistake Surf Lifesaving Club) also arrived on the scene.

Roydon recorded the man’s vital signs for handover to the medical team and Mike organised crowd control and cleared the scene of all non-essential people.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s Health, Safety, Wellbeing and Risk Manager Ross Merrett arrived and cleared a path for emergency services to access the patient through the crowds of people and the sand dunes.

“The man left in the ambulance, breathing and with a stable pulse,” James says.

“A debrief was held straight away and everyone was commended on their efforts, and reminded that without the effective CPR, and help of everyone involved, this man wouldn’t have survived.”

Having professional, medically trained responders as part of the team enabled everyone involved to hear about their effectiveness and teamwork.

“These professionals commented that they saw this response as near a text-book perfect application of skills.”

He says “advanced technical skills” were used, and to successfully resuscitate the patient the skills needed to be used perfectly.

James says a lot of people were extremely distressed by the situation, adding to the difficult environment for those who responded.

“The lifeguards who were involved performed exceptionally given the difficult conditions.”

The Surf Lifeguards will be recognised with a share of $300 worth of BP gift vouchers for their clubs. 

“The skills and dedication shown by the Surf Life Saving team in the course of this incident is an example of the great work Surf Lifeguards do on and off the water,” BP NZ Managing Director Debi Boffa says.

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

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and Muriwai Volunteer 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