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Search and rescue braced for summer spike; boaties rescued after vessel sinks

Author
Avneesh Vincent,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 3:54pm
Search and Rescue units urge the public to check their safety gear, boats and communication devices before they head into the water to enjoy summer.
Search and Rescue units urge the public to check their safety gear, boats and communication devices before they head into the water to enjoy summer.

Search and rescue braced for summer spike; boaties rescued after vessel sinks

Author
Avneesh Vincent,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 3:54pm

As Northland beaches get busier in the lead-up to summer, search and rescue teams have already responded to an increasing number of calls for help.

Police Search and Rescue Detective Sergeant Paul Overton said four people were rescued after their boat sank into the sea and one electric boat got towed after its battery went flat last weekend.

A member of the public alerted rescue services about three people yelling for help while struggling to keep afloat in the waters of Portland Channel on Saturday around 5pm.

Overton said the trio of men had set out on their 10-foot dinghy for recreational purposes when their boat started to sink.

Although their lifejackets helped them stay afloat for more than 30 minutes before they were rescued by Coastguard, who were helped by members of the public, none had a communication or a locating device on them.

“This was the same scenario for another man we rescued on Sunday morning after his kayak began to take water and once again it was a member of the public who alerted us about it,” Overton said.

Overton said it was crucial for people to have two-way communicators such as a VHF radio, a phone or even an emergency beacon locator, especially for those who were venturing out to sea.

In his 15 years of working on rescue missions, factors such as lack of safety gear on board, lack of communication and boat maintenance made up for most of the callouts he had attended.

Overton spoke of the rescue operation in the isolated region of Herekino Harbour earlier this October, in which a diver got swept out to sea and whose body was found around a week later.

“It was unfortunate but preventable. These callouts are only a reminder for people to see if they are equipped with all the safety gear and check their boat for maintenance to avoid breakdown.”

Coastguard Whangārei president Cherie Nelson said on average her team based at the Whangārei Harbour had to respond to more than 80 callouts every year. About 60 per cent of them were between Labour Day and Waitangi Day.

Whangārei Coastguard vessel Circa Rescue happened to be on a training exercise when a member of the public called about a sailor in difficulty off McLeod Bay. Photo / Tania Whyte
Whangārei Coastguard vessel Circa Rescue happened to be on a training exercise when a member of the public called about a sailor in difficulty off McLeod Bay. Photo / Tania Whyte

In her six years of being involved in rescue missions, she vividly remembers the West Island rescue operation as the one that impacted her personally.

“It was about four years ago when we got called to help this young family with five kids on board one summer.

“Their boat had experienced a mechanical failure, and the ruthless wind and tide were dangerously drifting them close to the rocks. They didn’t realise the danger they were in.”

Nelson said after they were rescued from their perilous situation, they went out to have a “great day” when their boat broke down.

“We want people to plan ahead, if the weather conditions are good or not, think about the gears they are taking, and if their boats are all up to the mark.

“Following these steps will help keep them steps away from a disaster,” Nelson said.

She advises people to download the Coastguard app to log their trip and be safe while having fun.

Avneesh Vincent is the crime and emergency services reporter at the Advocate. He was previously at the Gisborne Herald as the arts and environment reporter and is passionate about covering stories that can make a difference. He joined NZME in July 2023.

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