Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service take out first place in bp Rescue of the Month for treacherous rock rescue of five fishermen in appalling conditions

Thursday, 22 December 2022

Despite being warned by Surf Lifeguards of the incoming tide and huge surf, five fishermen ventured out on rocks south of Sunset Beach on Sunday, 27 November 2022. Lifeguards kept a watchful eye on them and initiated a daring rescue amongst jagged rocks and steep terrain as the sea cut off their only means of escape.

Surf Lifeguards warned a group of fishermen of dangerous conditions when they saw them heading to the rocks on the Sunday morning. Despite the advice from lifeguards, the fishermen continued to the rocks. An hour later the lifeguards on patrol at Sunset Beach launched a proactive rescue as the fishermen were cut off from the beach by the incoming tide.

Patrol Captain Malcolm Beattie OBE, coordinated the rescue from the club while lifeguards carefully lowered an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) onto the beach, as the access way had already been washed away that week by large waves. 

Lifeguards James Taylor, Laura Spinks, James Cruickshank and Joanne Hobson, travelled in the IRB out towards the fishermen with Taylor manoeuvring the boat around jagged and submerged rocks before landing on a small shingle beach by the cliff. Spinks entered the water and reached the first fisherman who was most at risk. She guided him to higher ground, away from the waves, and over to the IRB. He and another fisherman were returned to the beach in separate trips and treated for minor injuries by lifeguards at the club.

On the second return trip, Emily Tusa accompanied Taylor and they went back to the shingle beach to get the other lifeguards and headed around the point to locate another two fishermen who were stuck on the rocks. Meanwhile, Hobson had climbed around rocks, timing movements with incoming swells, to reach a fifth fisherman. Hobson escorted this fisherman back to the shingle beach amongst the rocks to meet the IRB and he was returned to the beach by the club. 

While this was happening, it was decided that the best way to reach the remaining two fishermen was for Taylor to climb up the rocks, over the hill and down to the rocks on the other side of the point to meet them. Taylor guided the fishermen up and over the hill in torrential rain to the awaiting IRB and they were returned to the patrol location one at a time. The IRB headed out a final time to pick up the lifeguards who then returned to the club and then carried the IRB back off the beach.

Beattie said “All the lifeguards involved in this rescue should be incredibly proud. They executed their training in challenging weather and huge surf conditions, with the rescue taking two hours. Without their efforts, five lives would almost certainly have been lost that day.” 

bp Head of Country NZ, Matt Elliott, says bp is proud to support incredible volunteer Surf Lifeguards like those who make up the Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service.

“Since 1968 bp has been proud to stand behind Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its Surf Lifeguards who consistently put their amazing skills into action to keep us all safer at our beaches.”

Andy Kent, Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Lifesaving Manager said that this rescue was a great example of the proactive interventions Surf Lifeguards perform when on patrol.

“Our lifeguards are trained to be vigilant and intervene to help people make better decisions before they get into trouble. In this case, the lifeguards warned the fishermen of the dangers, but they ignored that advice and still headed out on the rocks. The lifeguards initiated a proactive rescue before the fishermen were swept into the sea and they saved five lives.”

As the first-place winner of bp Rescue of the Month, the Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service will be recognised with $500-worth of bp gift cards and a framed citation to display at their club.

Sumner SLSC was awarded second place for a 4-hour operation involving 21 Surf Lifeguards where they rescued numerous surfers from a rip at Scarborough beach on Saturday, 12 November 2022.  They worked closely with Sumner Lifeboat in this operation while also maintaining the scheduled patrol at Sumner Beach and responding to a missing persons search on the same afternoon.  Sumner will receive $300-worth of bp gift cards and a framed citation.  Click here to read full details on this rescue.

In third place was a rescue by the Kariaotahi search and rescue squad.  Four Surf Lifeguards from Kariaotahi were called out by Police to respond to a 13-year-old girl in trouble off Kariaotahi Beach.  The lifeguards arrived to find two would-be rescuers also in trouble and had to think quickly to save all three people.  Within 15 minutes of the original call, they had all three patients safely back at the beach.  Kariaotahi will receive $200-worth of bp gift cards and a framed citation.  Click here to read full details on this rescue.