23 Jan 2019

Walkers swept by rockfall into sea at Hawke's Bay beach

11:55 pm on 23 January 2019

Two walkers have been injured - one critically - when a rockfall swept them off a Hawke's Bay beach and into the sea this afternoon.

The area at Cape Kidnappers beach near where there was a large landslip.

The area at Cape Kidnappers beach near where there was a large landslip. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Police said "a large amount of earth and rock" fell onto a beach south of Clifton at 2.30pm.

The walkers were on the beach, which is the access to Cape Kidnappers and is walkable at low tide.

A video taken by tourist Denis Birnie showed the collapse:

Tourists on a tour to the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers said the slip caught the walkers and pushed them into the ocean.

They said it made a huge rumbling noise that sounded like thunder.

Police have confirmed that two people have been taken to hospital. Hawke's Bay DHB said the pair were both in their 20s - a woman is in a critical condition and a man with a broken leg.

Emergency services remain at the scene but authorities have yet to confirm whether anyone remains trapped under the slip.

Gannet Beach Adventures owner Colin Lindsay was taking a group on a tractor tour along the beach when the slip happened and said a local man rescued the couple from the sea.

"He was out there today, just like a lot of the locals do go for a bit of a drive in their four-wheel-drive.

"Thankfully for them he was there first and he was able to ... pull them out of the water as they were actually unable to help themselves."

Mr Lindsay said slips happened periodically, but tourists did not always heed warning signs.

"They just tend to ignore them and unfortunately I was meant to be at a meeting right now, meeting with a senior DOC member to express our concerns of the walkers' safety and our biggest fear has just come true."

The man who rescued the couple, also in his 20s, has moderate injuries.

A team of surf life rescuers were sent out in boats and a helicopter did a pass of the beach to ensure no one else had been injured or swept out.

The Department of Conservation has closed the track where rockfall occurred.

A warning sign says the Cape Kidnappers Walking Track track is closed due to the risk to the public.

DOC and other authorities will today discuss any steps that may need to be taken to ensure public safety.