Muriwai VLS Awarded 1st Place for March '22 bp Rescue of the Month

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Off-duty SAR Squad members activate response to dramatic mid-air parachute collision.

An off-duty Muriwai Seach and Rescue Squad (SAR) member had just finished surfing when he saw a skydiver drifting out to sea while other parachutists landed on the beach. The Lifeguard immediately commenced a SAR Squad response, collected his lifeguard/SAR equipment and raced to the surf club with another local SAR Squad member who he’d been surfing with.

On arrival at the Muriwai surf club, the Lifeguards discovered that two skydivers had collided in mid-air during freefall with one skydiver rendered unconscious and landing in the water. With daylight quickly fading the incident was a race against time. The first two Lifeguards quickly assessed the hazards and risks and agreed. They agreed that given the location and their familiarity with the conditions a rapid search and patient retrieval would be possible within the 20 mins of light remaining.

The two Lifeguards launched the Rescue Water Craft (RWC), while the other SAR Squad Lifeguards gathered equipment and an IRB. On arriving on the beach, the Lifeguards in support had to immediately attend to the second skydiver involved in the collision. The RWC crew raced out through a 1.5m swell and spotted a jet-ski 1.5 km further out to sea. Two local surfers who had seen the parachutist hit the water had reached the person using their jet ski and were conducting CPR in a dramatic and challenging situation.

The lifeguards quickly assisted with the full CPR and cut away the skydiver’s parachute and harness before transferring the patient to the sled and heading back to shore. On the beach, SAR Squad members carried the patient to the triage area and re-commenced CPR and attached a defibrillator. When the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew arrived, they took over patient care – before declaring the patient deceased.

Meanwhile, another SAR squad member continued to support the second patient before transferring them to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

The response required rapid risk assessment, operational excellence, outstanding teamwork and broad interagency liaison to ensure a safe and professional outcome with over 40 responders from seven organisations involved as the scene descended into darkness. Those involved included Steve Morpeth, Dylan Wallis, FENZ Muriwai Volunteer Brigade, Muriwai St John First Response Group, Auckland Council Park Rangers, Westpac Rescue Helicopter, NZ Police Kumeu, Helensville and CIB, and the NZ Police Eagle Helicopter.

The incident garnered significant national media coverage with articles and imagery focusing on the rapid and professional response and the skills and bravery of the Muriwai Lifeguard SAR Squad response.

bp Head of Country NZ Matt Elliott says, “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.”

(Image Credit: Michael Craig, courtesy of NewstalkZB - Muriwai volunteer lifeguards, from left, Glenn Gowthorpe and Nigel Sorenson, who responded to the fatal skydiving accident