NZ Local News

Surf lifeguards rescue 22 people over weekend as 2024 fatal drowning total climbs

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A beachgoer dragged 200m out to sea in Otago was one of the 22 people who had their lives saved by surf lifeguards at the weekend.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) chief operations officer Chris Emmett said 22 rescues and 44 assists were performed nationally by lifeguards.

The swimmer at Kaka Point, 14km south of Balclutha, was dragged out to sea by offshore winds. Lifeguards rescued the person 200m out to sea.

“Our surf lifeguards continue to perform incredibly well this season, dealing with huge numbers of beach-goers as people make the most of warm weather and sunny skies before they return to work,” Emmett said.

Further north, lifeguards at Bethells Beach on Auckland’s west coast had their hands full on Sunday, treating nine swimmers for bluebottle stings and being involved in a search after an unsubstantiated report of three people trapped on rocks.

Bethells Beach (Te Henga) surf lifeguards sent out a rescue water craft (RWC) to conduct a shoreline search, and the police Eagle helicopter also responded, but they found no one needing help.

One person died after a water-related incident at Bethells Beach on New Year’s Eve in which four people were rescued from the water.

The individual was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition after the group of four young men were swept out to sea at the West Auckland beach. The person later died.

On Monday, SLSNZ confirmed the recovery of a body in the search for a 19-year-old man who went missing at Auckland’s Karioitahi Beach on January 2.

Police believed it was the body of Hiran Joseph.

He was found by Search and Rescue (LandSAR) at Hamilton’s Gap, north of Waiuku yesterday. A rāhui barring people from swimming or fishing in the area has been lifted.

Police have told Joseph’s family of his death and a spokesman said they were supporting the family at this incredibly difficult time.

Multiple surf lifeguards from Karioitahi Surf Life Saving Club in Auckland were involved in the search across five days, as well as the recovery, alongside police, Westpac Rescue Helicopter, and LandSAR.

The general manager of Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Zac Franich, said they send their sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victim.

“We would like to acknowledge the dedication of all those involved for their ongoing and tireless actions. Such a search can have a significant emotional impact, and we will ensure appropriate support services are in place for those involved,” Franich said.

In the eastern region, Pāpāmoa lifeguards had a big day assisting 20 people on Sunday, as strong currents pulled them out to shore.

At Hot Water Beach on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, surf lifeguards assisted a surfer who had a thigh laceration from a surfboard fin.

“The surf lifeguards helped treat the patient until paramedics arrived at the scene,” they said.

As at 9am on January 4, the provisional drowning total for 2024 was three.

To view the SLSNZ beach safety messages for the 2023/24 season, visit the website.

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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