Missing diver saved by Omaha lifeguards

For Surf Life Saving Northern Region

Auckland surf lifesavers found themselves far from ‘the flags’ on Thursday 30 January as they worked to save the life of a diver. It took paid lifeguards from Omaha Surf Life Saving Club 20 minutes to recover a troubled diver after he was reported missing off Omaha beach.

The diver was found around 1.2 kilometres offshore east of Ti Point after going out to 20-metre deep water with his wife. Although the pair took all necessary safety measures including using a visible dive float, once the diver submerged under water, their boat started to drift, and the diver’s wife was unable to restart the engine. She called the Police Maritime Unit who gave instructions over the phone to help her restart the motor. When she returned to the splash point, she was unable to see her husband.

The Police Maritime Unit alerted Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s rescue coordination service SurfCom who quickly alerted Omaha Lifeguards and Coastguard Northern Region. Lifeguards Tremaine Fry and Brie Downey launched an IRB and started searching for the missing diver, asking nearby vessels if they’d seen a diver nearby or a boat that matched the Police description.

Patrol Captain Georgia Parker remained at the beach as communications coordinator, while off-duty volunteer guard Ben Pringle saw what was happening and came down to help patrol so the flagged area could remain open on the beach.

Around 4pm the lifeguards spotted the diver in the water and within five minutes the lifeguards had recovered the diver and his gear, reuniting him with his wife onboard their vessel. Parker said the rescue was textbook in its execution and proves the importance of the organisations paid lifeguard service operations.

“It took Brie and Tremaine just 15 minutes to find the missing diver after first being notified by SurfCom,” Parker said. “This sort of quick response time goes to show just how important it is to have lifeguards at beaches like Omaha over the summer period. We’ve responded to multiple incidents in recent weeks off the Matakana coastline, mostly for people being blown out to sea on inflatables. To have volunteers like Ben see what’s going on and give up their own time to keep people safe between the flags while we were dealing with this incident is also really commendable.”

Surf Life Saving Northern Region CEO Matt Williams says that the rescue highlights the growing breadth of Surf Life Saving’s responsibility and displayed the capability and professionalism with which the public have come to rely on the organisation for. “Having well trained lifeguards with a wide response capability helped prevent a potentially tragic outcome,” he says.  

“This is not an isolated incident and is in fact the norm. Just on Monday, volunteer lifeguards from Whangārei Heads were involved in a search for a diver missing off Awahoa Bay near Taiharuru who was unfortunately found dead. Though we were not successful in retrieving this diver in time, the swift recovery of the body and the support provided to emergency services is a great example of the crucial service that Surf Life Saving provides for coastal communities, beyond our work of keeping people safe on the beaches. Appropriate funding to provide these varied services to meet public demand continue to be an ongoing point of discussion, however, we are thankful to our loyal sponsors and partners who make it possible for us to save lives along our coastlines.”

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