Dramatic pre-season incidents for Surf Life Saving Northern Region as surf lifeguards respond to two serious incidents at Piha and Raglan

Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) has warned beachgoers to be aware of significant hazards following two serious incidents at west coast beaches within the Northern Region this morning, Sunday 8 October. The two incidents occurred at Raglan and South Piha.

At South Piha, surf lifeguards responded to reports of a rock fisher being washed off the rocks, while at Raglan, surf lifeguards supported the Coastguard response to a boater being washed overboard as the boat he was on crossed the Raglan bar.

SLSNR Lifesaving Operations Manager James Lea has highlighted that both incidents very nearly resulted in loss of life and could easily have proven fatal had the response from surf lifeguards and other emergency response services not been so timely.

“Both these incidents took place in particularly dangerous conditions, in three metre swells. We cannot stress enough that people need to be aware of the conditions, and understand just how quickly they can change. We urge the public to exercise some situational awareness, read the weather forecast, and exercise some common sense: If in doubt, stay out,” he said.

“There is absolutely no reason that anyone should be rock fishing or putting themselves at risk in conditions like those we saw today. It’s big, messy surf, and the size has continued to grow throughout the day. There is a huge amount of water moving about on the west coast of our region today, meaning particularly strong currents. The light winds we saw earlier this morning are now gusting over 20 knots.

James Lea said that beachgoers and water users needed to respect and recognise when the water is too dangerous for recreational activities.

“Rock-fishers in particular need to take extra care in large swells. Large, surging waves can be unpredictable and easily knock you into dangerous waters.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry. It really isn’t worth the risk. It’s a miracle that no one died in either of these incidents. We cannot stress it enough – the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is not put yourself at risk in the first place.”

At Piha, surf lifeguards at Piha Surf Life Saving Club and a Westpac Rescue helicopter responded to reports of a rock fisher being washed off the rocks and into the surging waters at the southern end of the beach at approximately 8am. It is understood that the fisher was not wearing a lifejacket. The rock fisher was winched to safety by the Westpac Rescue helicopter and was thankfully secured conscious and breathing.

At Raglan, surf lifeguards assisted Coastguard New Zealand and the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter in responding to an incident involving a boat crossing the Raglan bar in large swell at approximately 8am. A boat passenger on what is understood to be a charter boat was washed overboard, with reports the boat was hit by a large wave. The person was rescued from the water by the Coastguard however had a head injury, a broken finger, and serious hypothermia, and was in need of urgent medical attention. Ambulance services administered first aid once the patient was returned to shore, and they also provided first aid treatment to the five other people aboard the boat who were also injured.

The surf lifesaving patrol season commences from Saturday 21 October (Labour weekend), with regular weekend patrols conducted by volunteer lifeguards. Weekday lifeguard services within the Northern Region commence from Monday 20 November at Muriwai and Piha, and Monday 27 November at Raglan.

2023-24 Season Beach Safety Messages from Surf Life Saving New Zealand:

1. Know How To Float

If you don’t know how to float, don’t go in the water.

Too many people get into trouble in the water because they overestimate their abilities.

2. Find The Safest Place To Swim

If you’re heading to the beach, check safeswim.org.nz, find a lifeguarded beach, and swim between the red and yellow flags.

3. If In Doubt, Stay Out

Waves can be bigger than they look, and weather conditions can change quickly. If you feel uncomfortable about getting into the water, stay out.

4. Take Care of Others

Always keep children within arm’s reach in or near the water. Waves can move quickly and unexpectedly and can sweep kids away or knock them off their feet. Everyone has different levels of ability, so watch out for your mates too.

5. Know How to Get Help

If someone in the water is in trouble and surf lifeguards are on patrol, let them know. If you can’t see any surf lifeguards, call 111 and ask for police.

If you’re in the water and in trouble, signal for help.

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