Daring Rock Rescue Wins Waihi Beach LS 1st Place

Monday, 25 January 2021

Press release

January 25, 2021

[Image: A Surf Lifeguard supports the rescue helicopter in aiding a man injured on the rocks near Bowentown.]


In the early hours of Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service’s Christmas Day patrol at Bowentown, Patrol captain Ella Higgins received a call regarding a patient with a suspected hip fracture “on the rocks” somewhere nearby.

The precise location was unknown, so Higgins and fellow Surf Lifeguards Michiel Cumming and Gabriella de Latour drove the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to scan the rocks and nearby Anzac Bay to no avail. As they were heading back to base, they met with police who provided Cave Bay as the location. Travel by foot was deemed ineffective and time-consuming, so Cumming and Higgins launched the inflatable rescue boat (IRB) and headed to the remote location while de Latour maintained the Bowentown patrol base.

Cumming and Higgins found the patient’s distressed son frantically waving his arms 400 meters along the rocks towards the point from Cave Bay. On arrival, it was deemed unsafe to leave the IRB due to surf conditions, so Cumming swam from the IRB to the patient to provide immediate assistance. He then gave a full handover to the paramedics when they arrived, while Higgins transported the rescue team and equipment to the location via IRB.

The patient’s condition was deteriorating, however, so members of the public held the boat while Higgins assisted Cumming at the scene. As the rescue helicopter arrived, two Flight Medics were winched down 50 meters from the patient’s location. A plan was made to administer the patient pain relief and transport him to a location where he could be winched out. The team had to be extremely careful and cautious while transferring him from his original position, lying on his stomach on a rock, to a flat position on his back. Cumming and Higgins assisted in a textbook body-roll onto the spinal board with the help of the Fire Rescue team and the paramedic.

The team then decided to move the patient to a more appropriate winch site 50 meters from the initial incident. Cumming and Higgins assisted in the carry, dodging submerged and visible rocks, as well as the incoming tide. The patient was then lifted onto a rock where he was secured by the Flight Medics and winched out. Cumming, along with fire and rescue personnel, surrounded the rock in case the patient was blown into the water with the downward wind pressure from the helicopter. Higgins secured the IRB from the members of the public and drove to a safer location away from the helicopter. The patient was airlifted at 12.35 pm.

This was a fantastic effort involving all emergency services working cohesively together. bp NZ Managing Director, Matt Elliott says bp is “incredibly proud” to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for more than 50 years.

“bp is immensely proud to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand since 1968. The skills and bravery of Surf Lifeguards continue to impress our bp team and this rescue is another example of these amazing efforts.”

As the first-place winner of bp Rescue of the Month, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service will be recognised with $500-worth of bp gift vouchers.


If there are Surf Lifeguards on patrol, let them 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