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Rescue At Kai Iwi Lakes Highlights Importance Of Water Safety

On the eve of the 2022-2023 Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) patrol season commencing this coming long weekend, a rescue by an off-duty lifeguard has highlighted the importance of surf lifesaving skills to the community, and the importance of water safety.

Off-duty surf lifeguard Bailey Hudson of Waipū Cove Surf Life Saving Club was visiting the Kai Iwi lakes with some friends on Saturday afternoon, when they noticed a group of people in the water, one with a single arm raised into the air, the recommended signal for distress in the water.

Bailey and his friends recognised the signs of someone in distress and immediately sprung into action. They sprinted 200m along the beach, and swam out to the group.

None of the group could swim, and were unable to reach their 40-year-old friend, who had entered the deep water near the pontoon and was now floating face down unconscious 10m away.

Bailey and a friend reached the patient, and Bailey’s first aid training kicked into gear. He and his friend secured the patient’s airway above water, and transported him to the water’s edge. Bailey then checked for responsiveness, and when he noticed no signs of life, asked his friend to call an ambulance – the friend was told a helicopter would be 15 minutes away.

Bailey then attempted to open the patient’s airway and cleared some water. The patient was not breathing, so Bailey commenced chest compressions, and delegated one of the patient’s friends to perform rescue breaths. After about five rounds of CPR, the patient started to cough, and regain consciousness.

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Bailey placed the patient in the recovery position, put blankets around him and kept him awake by talking to him, and asking him questions. The patient’s three young children, wife and large group of friends were present. Bailey encouraged the whole group to go and get swimming lessons after their lucky escape, and reminded them to stay within their limits if they don’t know how to swim.

Bailey remained with the semi-conscious patient until the helicopter arrived and the patient was airlifted to hospital.

SLSNR Chief Executive Officer Matt Williams praised Bailey for his heroic actions, and reinforced Bailey’s water safety message to the rescued patient and his family and friends.

“This was a textbook rescue by Bailey, done by the book, and while it is great to see surf lifesaving skills being put to use in the community, it is the second week in a row we have another immensely lucky would-be victim, who was rescued only because a lifeguard was in the right place at the right time.

“Had Bailey not been there, it’s likely we would be adding another drowning death to the growing statistics. While he and his friends demonstrated the very best of surf lifesaving in our communities, it also pinpoints the ongoing dangers we as a community are putting ourselves in in when not exercising basic water safety,” says Williams.

“While rescues can prevent loss of life and demonstrate the heroism of our lifeguards, they can also represent a lack of water education before the person rescued entered the water. That is something we continue to take very seriously, and water education for the community will be a significant focus for SLSNR over the next one-to-five years. We want to broaden our focus from a responsive service to supporting those individuals, collectives, or communities before they encounter lifeguards at the beach.”

That could mean engaging with new or emerging coastal communities who do not yet have surf lifesaving services, such as Te Arai, north of Auckland. Williams also pointed to recent arrivals to New Zealand who are not familiar with the dangers of kiwi coastlines, alongside the emerging challenges he is seeing in the Ahu Whenua trust Mana Whenua space, around an increase in visitors accessing and getting into trouble on their coastal lands. These groups, he says, all form part of the audience SLSNR were hoping to reach as a core contributor to water safety in New Zealand.

Williams highlighted the importance of beach education and water skills programmes run by SLSNR, in conjunction with Auckland Council and other partners.

“The Beach Education and Water Skills for Life programmes save lives, plain and simple,” he says. “It’s only through education that people become aware of the many dangers of our beaches and waterways.

“Our beaches and waterways are an absolute treasure and part of the kiwi lifestyle. We want everyone to be able to safely enjoy them, and we are working actively to ensure that people have the nous to recognise their limitations, and recognise the many dangers present on our coastlines.”

“Most importantly, if you are visiting an actively-patrolled beach, always swim between the flags.”

He urged the public to remain vigilant in and around the water, and emphasised the importance of making safe decisions at beaches throughout the rest of Autumn,” he says.

“Be sure to watch out for rip currents that can carry you away from shore, be smart around rocks, don’t overestimate your ability in the water, and never swim or surf alone.

“If you spot anyone in trouble in the water, call 111, and ask police for the Surf Lifeguards. This will activate the local Search and Rescue squad.

Williams stressed that, while Surf Life Saving clubs and lifeguards were preparing for the beginning of the patrol season this coming weekend, beachgoers needed to work with lifeguards who were there to keep them safe, use their common sense, and stay within their limits.

“Most importantly, if you are visiting an actively-patrolled beach this coming long weekend, always swim between the flags,” he says.


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