An Auckland woman feared she might drown after her hair got caught in a flotation tank's filtration system as she lay in darkness.
The 23-year-old, who did not want to be named, was eventually freed after a staff member at the Botany Infinity Float Centre cut her entangled hair free.
The owners of the centre, Renay Chand and husband Jaskarn Dhatt, said they were mortified and the last thing they want to do is injure someone in a business focused on relaxation.
The float tank were a client had her hair caught in the filtration system. Photo / Supplied
Chand said the business closed for two days after it happened to investigate and make changes to prevent the same thing happening again.
The injured woman said she was speaking about her experience not to damage the business, but to warn others of the risks of the therapy for people in physical and mental recovery.
She went to the float centre, which allows users to immerse themselves in a pod of salt enriched water with no external noises or distractions, on September 1. She signed a form outlining a few precautions, but nothing mentioning the orientation of the tank or the risk of the filtration system starting up automatically.
She said she asked her if she should tie her hair up but was told she didn't need to.
After an hour in the pod, she did not hear music to alert her the session was over, saying she was told to wear ear plugs to stop water going into her ears.
There was a bump on her head and she reached out to discover a big chunk of her hair was caught in the filtration system.
"My first instinct was to freak out and sort of try and get loose.
"I'm using my whole body strength and then I just flip over in the water... and I was swallowing water."
She kicked her foot around and managed to get the lid up, yelled for help and a staffer came to the door saying "are you okay?".
A manager arrived and cut her hair free, near the top of her skull.
"Meanwhile, I was hyperventilating.
"My hair looked like it had been done in like a big, messy bun on the top of my head. It looked horrible."
Chand said an employee said she had explained to the woman the right way to get into the pod, but the woman told her that was not the case. She went into the tank the wrong way.
"As a business owner if [the woman] says she wasn't told then that is what I take on board.
"She stayed in the tank long enough after the session ended for the music to play for five minutes at the end, which she was informed was the cue to get out of the tank.
"An audio message saying 'Your session is over' played once the music ended, this is followed by a brief pause before the pump starts to get ready for filtration, this automatically starts to filter the water so it's ready for the next client.
"The pump makes a very loud sound when starting, however the client still remained in the tank past all these notifications and eventually her hair started getting pulled into the filtration inlet."
Chand and Dhatt tested the tanks for any malfunctions and the music to ensure it could be heard. Staff were retrained on informing clients about the right way to get into the tanks.
The owners got in touch with a global group of float centres and contacted the manufacturers of the pods in Singapore. They have found a way to customise the tanks so the filtration systems do not come on automatically but are manually triggered after clients are out of the tank.
"There is also an emergency button inside each tank as an added measure of safety; when this is activated this sends an alarm to our staff," Chand said.
WorkSafe or other agencies were not alerted.
The owners have been in regular touch with the woman to discuss what happened, support her and update her on the investigation. They also gave her a refund, two movie tickets and a hamper.