18 Apr 2023

Father's warning after girl pinned by huge log at Gisborne beach

11:10 am on 18 April 2023
Juliana Marston in Gisborne Hospital after a forestry log rolled on top of her.

Juliana Marston in Gisborne Hospital after a forestry log rolled on top of her. Photo: Gisborne Herald

The father of a 10-year-old girl in hospital after being crushed under a log at a Gisborne beach is warning other parents to be on the lookout for the dangers posed by woody debris.

Juliana Marston, who was on holiday from Christchurch, fractured her pelvis in two places at the weekend after being pinned under what her family said was a large forestry log when it rolled in the waves.

She was taken to Gisborne Hospital. Her family said her injuries could have been much worse.

A 12-year-old boy died at Gisborne's Waikanae Beach in January. Witnesses told local media the child had fallen off a floating log and was then hit by it while standing in the shallows.

Juliana's father Clint Marston told Morning Report she was recovering well and that he wanted other families to be wary of the dangers posed by logs on the region's beaches.

"She had some blood in the urine earlier, which is fairly common with pelvic injuries, and we thought that might be something more serious," he said. "It's cleared and so it's really just the bone breaks that we've got to worry about."

Marston said they were having a family walk on the beach and some of the children had moved ahead of the adults when they were on their way back. He had been distracted by a face-off between two dogs, when the incident happened.

"When I turned around I saw in the distance about 100 metres down the beach that the children, two cousins and my daughter, had stood up on top of the log and no sooner did I see them I saw them fall off. Two of them got up and one didn't and I started sprinting down the beach.

"Once we got there, we realised that she was actually pinned. And so my brother, her Uncle Simon and myself, were digging furiously to get her out. This log was massive. There was no chance of us moving it really.

"This was a clean cut, looked like it was off the back of a forestry truck. It was a huge 25 foot [almost 8 metres] really, really wide log."

The adults worked frantically to get Juliana released, concerned the next wave coming up could do more damage.

They managed to dig her out and quickly took her to hospital.

He said there was slash on the high end of the beach, although he had been told contractors had cleared the beach of previous forestry slash in January.

"Most of the slash was up past the end of the dry sand, so that was quite a way from the water. But this one was right near the tide line where the wet sand was."

He believed the log washed up on the beach as they were walking, with smaller bits of debris in the water.

Danger could last months - mayor

Gisborne's Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the region's beaches would remain dangerous for several months, as rain continued to wash up woody debris.

Stoltz said forestry companies had cleared beaches of forestry debris after Cyclone Gabrielle, but it kept coming back.

"Unfortunately what we are seeing is as we have more rain, woody debris continues to wash up. ... we are asking people to exercise extreme care around our beaches."

She said beaches would not be cleaned up again until after winter and added people should follow the council's warning signs on beaches.

A Tai Rāwhiti forestry industry group echoed those comments.

Eastland Wood Council chief executive Philip Hope said it was for local authorities to decide whether beaches were safe, and when these should be opened or not.

Lessons needed to be learned from the family's experience, Marston said.

"Obviously you want to avoid this happening to anyone else. It breaks your heart when this happens to a child," he said.

"The forestry industry has to be very careful that - particularly forestry logs, but even the slash that they create ... doesn't enter the waterways. And yes, the council has to be very careful of the dangers down there.

"This is just a very terrible accident. It could have been a lot worse if she'd fallen on the other side of the log, the log moved more, or there's another wave coming just at that time - she could be paralysed or she could have been killed.

"But I just want to make sure that people realise that this has now happened to two people this year in Gisborne alone. So if you are walking on the beach, make sure the kids know that if there's any logs that are in the water on wet sand, just keep well clear of them.

"Just tell them not to get too far ahead, so that perhaps this can be avoided in the other instances."

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