26 Dec 2019

Christmas a busy day for lifeguards on North Island beaches

10:55 am on 26 December 2019

North Island Surf Life Savers had a busy day on the beaches yesterday with two drownings and a number of near misses and rescues.

Surf lifesaving flags out at the beach.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Surf Life Saving Northern Region chief executive Matt Williams said more than 8000 people were at patrolled beaches yesterday.

A crab fisherman was swept away from rocks and drowned at Uretiti Beach in Northland - a popular crabbing spot - and another died after a snorkelling incident at Kai Iwi Lakes near Omamari.

Lifeguards from Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Patrol and Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club were alerted to assist the troubled fisherman and launched a comprehensive water search with Northland Rescue Helicopter.

The body of the missing male was found and recovered from the water.

Rock-fishing was classified as a high-risk activity, Williams said.

"My sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the recently deceased fisherman. This isn't an easy thing to experience, especially during the festive season."

"If you're rock fishing the most important thing to remember is to wear a lifejacket at all times," Williams said.

Key rock fishing safety messages

  • Check the conditions
  • Always wear a lifejacket
  • Never fish alone and always let someone know when you will be returning home
  • Always wear the correct equipment (Light clothing and sturdy footwear is essential)
  • Beware of waves and swells (Never turn your back to the surf and keep an eye on the tide so you don't get caught)
  • If you see someone in trouble call 111 and ask for Police.

Surf lifesavers help out in other events

On Orewa Beach, two men were also assisted to shore after being blown out to sea on a raft.

At Mangawhai Heads, lifeguards rescued a woman who was swept out to sea and helped two people having medical emergencies.

At Whangārei Heads, lifeguards at were alerted to a patient experiencing chest pain at a nearby bach.

They responded with a defibrillator and provided support to the St John crew before returning to set up their flags.

At Long Bay, lifeguards launched a land-based search for a missing person who was later located.

The presence of sharks and orcas also closed a number of beaches.

"If you're going out swimming choose a lifeguarded beach and stay in between the flags. It's these decisions that will help keep you and your family safe these holidays," Williams said.

The Safeswim website has more information about swimming conditions, lifeguard patrol times and water quality.

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