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New Zealand rescue recognised at international awards

12th September 2019

A dramatic rescue off the Port Waikato bar has earned New Zealand search and rescue agencies international recognition.

The teams behind the massive multi-agency rescue were announced runners-up in the Outstanding Team Contribution to Maritime Search and Rescue Operations at the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) Awards ceremony held in London recently.

The New Zealand rescue also won the IMRF’s People’s Choice Award that was decided by a public vote on social media.

Representatives from Coastguard New Zealand, Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi and Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter attended the awards lunch in London. A plaque was presented to them by Princess Anne’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence KCVO CB ADC(P).

The Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre, Auckland Police Maritime Unit, Police Eagle Helicopter, Waiuku Police, Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service and St John Ambulance crews were also involved in the May 25 rescue.

The New Zealand rescue was one of two finalists in the Outstanding Team Contribution to Maritime Search and Rescue Operations. The winner was Marine Rescue Port Macquarie.

The teams saved a man, woman and child who were thrown into the water after their boat stalled and overturned in rough conditions. They managed to call the police and the search and rescue operation began, which was co-ordinated from the Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre.

Three Coastguard rescue vessels were dispatched from Waiuku and Papakura, together with shore-based search teams from the Police, Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter, the Police Eagle helicopter and a Surf Life Saving inflatable rescue boat (IRB).

It was dark night and huge waves breaking on the bar created a lot of sea spray and hampered visibility for rescuers. The Eagle helicopter located the three people in the water with infrared heat-detection equipment.

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter tried to winch an intensive care paramedic down to the trio in the water but the conditions were too dangerous and was aborted. Conditions on the bar were too dangerous for the rescue vessels. Instead, the surf lifesavers launched an IRB into the surf while the choppers hovered above and used their searchlights to guide them.

Vehicles parked on the beach had their headlights on to give the surf crew more visibility.

The trio were found in four minutes, pulled onto the IRB and taken to shore.

The woman and child were critically hypothermic and taken to hospital by the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter. The woman went into cardiac arrest on route. The man was taken to hospital for monitoring by St John ambulance. All have made a full recovery.

The IMRF Awards honour the outstanding commitment of dedicated search and rescue professionals and volunteers. This year’s awards were held on board HQS Wellington and formed part of London International Shipping Week.


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