Shark Attack Response Sees Surf Lifeguards Take 2nd Place for bp Rescue of the Month

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Press release

February 23, 2021

Nothing appeared out of the ordinary at Bowentown on the afternoon of January 7th, 2021. The weather was warm and sunny, and a light breeze tossed the waves.

At around 5pm, Surf Lifeguards noticed three swimmers about 150m out to sea. Two of the swimmers returned to shore while one remained in the water, swimming confidently and not in distress. Given how far out she was, however, the lifeguards opted to launch an IRB at 5:05 to check on her. Lifeguards Jess Meade and Stella Reid launched the inflatable rescue boat (IRB) while fellow lifeguard Jack Sewell kept a close eye on the swimmer from the beach.

Suddenly, as the IRB was about to launch, Sewell heard a scream from out to sea and, through the binoculars, spotted thrashing in the water. He immediately radioed to the IRB to urgently attend to the swimmer. The IRB took a swift course through the waves before reaching the swimmer.

In the meantime, Sewell cleared the water of swimmers, dropped the patrol flags and prepared the oxygen kit and tourniquet at the water’s edge – all through quick thinking and with little knowledge of the situation unfolding.

The lifeguards quickly reached the swimmer, a young woman, who was weak and in obvious distress. Both lifeguards pulled the badly injured woman into the boat before signalling to shore that assistance was required.

Once the IRB returned to shore, Sewell applied the tourniquet to the injured leg before the unconscious patient was moved to the sand. The team radioed to Surf Lifeguards at Waihi main beach for additional support and 111 was called for immediate assistance. Roaming Head Lifeguard Ella Higgins arrived within minutes and the team undertook a highly technical and demanding first aid process.

Paramedics and the rescue helicopter arrived shortly before 5:30pm to continue CPR with the assistance of the lifeguards. Meanwhile, lifeguards from Island View and Waihi main beach cleared swimmers from the water quickly across the coastline.

Sadly, the young woman was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics despite the exceptional first aid provided by the lifeguards and other emergency personnel.

Although the result of this incident was devastating, the Surf Lifesaving community is extremely proud of the efforts of these lifeguards. The swift decision making and actions taken by all involved gave this young woman the best chance of survival – and for that, we can be nothing but proud of our team.

bp Head of Country NZ, Matt Elliott says bp is “incredibly proud” to back Surf Lifeguards like those at Bowentown.

“bp has been proud to stand behind Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its Surf Lifeguards for 53 years. The skills and dedication shown by Surf Lifeguards in this incident highlight the challenging work Lifeguards face while patrolling our beaches.”

As the second-place winner of bp Rescue of the Month, Waihi Beach Surf Life Saving Club will be recognised with $300-worth of bp gift vouchers.


  • Let lifeguards know. If you can’t see any lifeguards, CALL 111 & ASK FOR THE POLICE. They have a direct line to both Surf Life Saving New Zealand and Coastguard.



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