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Waiwera pair left clinging to upturned dinghy before ‘miracle’ rescue from water

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When a Waiwera woman and her 80-year-old friend were left clinging to their upturned dinghy while waves crashed over them, they thought all hope was lost.

The 50-year-old said it was a “miracle” the local Coastguard was conducting trials in the area and was able to save them from the water.

The two friends were coming home from a fishing trip when the waves started smashing the side of their dinghy. The boat quickly started to take on water.

The pair were found clinging to the upturned vessel and were rescued from the water by the Coastguard.
The pair were found clinging to the upturned vessel and were rescued from the water by the Coastguard.

The boat was under in just 30 seconds and the pair were left clinging to each side of the upturned boat, the woman said.

“I was just making sure my friend was okay. He had lots of layers on but I didn’t so I ended up with hypothermia,” she said.

“Then I dived under the dinghy to get the dry bag, which [had] my phone to try to get 111. Of course, it’s a flotation device so it took a lot of effort to pull it down and up and out.”

She soon realised that if she opened the bag, the waves would quickly fill it, ruining her chance of calling for help. She attempted to scramble on top of the boat but to no avail.

“The waves were just crashing and I’m like, ‘Well, if I open this up, I’m gonna lose my phone and then we’ve got no comms’,” she said.

She contemplated making a daring swim to shore after 40 minutes in the water when she heard her friend say, “Look, the Coastguard”.

“At first I didn’t believe him because I was facing the other way,” she said. “It was a miracle. I just couldn’t believe it.”

The crew were doing trials and had decided to go inshore rather than out again.

“They thought we were a kite surfer in trouble first before they got closer,” she said.

The dinghy was recovered by the Coastguard and was returned to the owner.
The dinghy was recovered by the Coastguard and was returned to the owner.

Coastguard volunteer Dave Tilley said the rescue was a case of being in the right place at the right time.

“There were no other vessels nearby, and the couple had one mobile phone in a plastic ziplock bag that they had retrieved from the capsized vessel. Both the outgoing tide and wind would have pushed them further away from land.”

An image of the recovered vessel shows a single shoe and some rope sitting in the bottom of the boat, with a Mercury outboard motor still attached.

The spokesperson said one of the volunteers went above and beyond by returning some of the recovered personal items to the couple in Waiwera.

The woman wanted to remind locals to continuously check the conditions and watch for the “short chop” that flooded their boat.

Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.



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