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Missing kayaker survives seven hour ordeal alone at sea

Missing kayaker survives seven hour ordeal alone at sea

At 2113 hours last night Coastguard’s Operations Centre was alerted to an overdue kayaker in the Whangarei area. The missing kayaker’s employer alerted Coastguard following a call from the man’s partner saying he hadn’t yet returned home from work.
Often choosing to travel the short ten minute journey to and from work by kayak the 62 year old male had set off from Marsden Point heading to his car and trailer at nearby Reotahi; however he failed to arrive.

Coastguard Whangarei volunteers on board ‘Circa Rescue’ were tasked to the incident shortly after 2130 hours and began the search in adverse conditions together with the Northland Emergency Services Trust Helicopter (NEST). Coastguard Radio broadcast All Stations calls alerting members of the public following which, three private vessels provided assistance by searching the nearby area.

As the search continued into the night Coastguard Northland Air Patrol was put on standby to join the search at first light, however, at 0028 hours the NEST Helicopter identified a target through their thermal imaging equipment. Circa Rescue responded at best speed to the location where they pulled the survivor from the water. The survivor was cold and wet but conscious and complained of cramp in his legs. He was assessed by Coastguard volunteers and treated for hypothermia while being transported on board Circa Rescue to a waiting ambulance where his relieved family were also waiting for his safe return.

Coastguard Rescue Vessel Volunteer Skipper John Haselden said “the kayaker had been moments from reaching Reotahi when a current together with the waves flipped him out of his kayak. His inflatable life jacket worked a treat and inflated upon contact with the water however this made it difficult for the kayaker to try and get himself back into his kayak. He made the decision to deflate his life jacket so he could again attempt to get back on board the kayak but by this time the kayak was swamped and he was being taken out to sea. Survival instincts kicked in and he wrapped his arms through the deck lines of the kayak using its buoyancy as a floatation device. After a while his strobe stopped working, however, his thermal clothing and water proof jacket provided some protection from the elements.”

Reflecting on the incident this morning the survivor, Mark, said he is so very grateful to the volunteers that came to his rescue “I never thought my usual 10 minute trip home in my kayak would turn into seven hours out there drifting alone with no way of calling for help, it was such a relief to see the Coastguard boat heading towards me and be heading back to shore, I’m so grateful to them. And to think they’re all volunteers…”

Mark hasn’t been put off the incident, however remains grateful for his lifejacket and will be quickly looking to purchase a marine VHF Radio and personal locator beacon ensuring that in future he has waterproof forms of communication.

It’s timely as we kick off volunteer awareness week on Monday to acknowledge the remarkable efforts of Coastguard volunteers who leave their day jobs, families and the comfort of home to go out and help others in trouble at sea but as John says “there’s something quite special being part of a team that shares in saving the life of another”.


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