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Rescue highlights need for caution around rivers

"Rescue highlights need for caution around rivers this summer "

A 12-year-old girl’s rescue from Motueka River last week is a timely reminder to be cautious when swimming in rivers or streams this summer, say Police.

Sergeant Malcolm York, Search and Rescue coordinator for Nelson Bays Police, says the girl could easily have drowned after being swept down the river.

About 5pm on Monday 12 November, Police were called by a member of the public who had seen the girl get into difficulty.

The girl was swept downstream under a group of willow trees that had fallen into a fast-flowing section of the river below a popular swimming spot.

The Tasman LandSAR Swift Water Rescue team was deployed.

Fortunately, the girl had managed to cling to one of the branches, and had pulled herself up out of the water.

Two members of the public risked their own safety to retrieve her from the trees.

Swift Water Rescue Team member Aimee McDonald, who arrived first on scene, said if the girl had lost her grip there was a very great risk that she would have drowned.

Police would like to remind anyone thinking about swimming in rivers or streams this summer to exercise caution before going in.

“Police don’t want to have to turn up on someone’s doorstep to tell them a family member has drowned this summer,” says Sergeant York.

“It’s imperative you make sure that you are aware of the conditions, and to make sure you are not putting yourself or your friends and family at risk.”

CEO of Water Safety New Zealand Jonty Mills says rivers present one of the riskiest environments for preventable drowning in New Zealand, with 15 people losing their lives in rivers in 2017.

Rivers are changeable and unpredictable, particularly after heavy rainfall.

People need to check the current and hazards, both upstream, downstream and where they are swimming.

Rivers can also contain hidden dangers such as submerged objects and snags.

“Swollen rivers in particular should be avoided.

Anyone thinking of crossing or swimming in a river in an area where there’s been heavy rainfall needs to think twice,” says Mills.

“We always urge people to use extreme caution, listen to weather reports and get the best local knowledge possible when swimming in rivers.

“The question people need to ask themselves is if I get caught in a current and get swept away, can I get out of the river?

“Always establish an exit point and never swim alone.”


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