Girl swims 500m for help after engine fails

Last updated 09:33 18/09/2012

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With night about to fall and rugged weather on its way, a 15-year-girl swam about 500m against offshore winds to raise the alarm about three others still out at sea.

Shortly before 6pm yesterday, two 15-year-old girls from the Petone Rowing Club were training off the Petone foreshore when they fell from their rowing skiff, police said.

A support boat - with two women, one of them the coach - took them on but that had engine failure and began to get blown out to sea in offshore winds.

One of the the girls decided to swim to shore, where she raised the alarm. Police launch the Lady Elizabeth IV and Westpac Rescue helicopter arrived at the scene at 6.14pm.

Police took one the girls and the two women from the support boat on to Lady Elizabeth IV and gave them blankets.

The rowing skiff and support boat were then towed back to the club, and the trio were taken ashore.

One of the girls was treated for mild hypothermia.

Assistant club captain Greg Stothers said the girl swam between 200m and 500m to reach land, having tipped over near the Hutt River mouth.

The tide was coming in at the time but half an hour later it would have turned.

Mr Stothers was at the scene and said the girl reached land with mild hypothermia but was otherwise fine.

"[She was] a little more upset police and [a] helicopter were involved."

Both girls were new to the club and were novice rowers.

Rowing skiffs were easy to tip over, as were most small boats, he said.

Petone Rowing Club president Russell Baxter said the girl was a strong swimmer.

Skiffs had no room for lifejackets but the two people in the support boat did have lifejackets. The support boat also had flotation chambers.

Mr Baxter said it was a freak occurrence they fell out of the boat, then the outboard motor on the support boat broke.

Acting police central communications shift commander Mark Oliver said some "rugged weather" was moving into Wellington at the time.

"It never ceases to amaze me how many people go out [in bad weather]," he said.

Police expressed concern there were not enough life jackets for all four girls.

COLD FRONT HITS WELLINGTON

The cold front that moved through Wellington last night came with gusts up to 85km.

When the front moved in from the south the temperature dropped from 13degC to 9.9degC from 7pm to 8pm last night, MetService forecaster Philippa Murdoch said.

Wind was blowing at 60kmh, with gusts up to 85kmh but by midnight had dropped down.

The skies should clear today for a largely fine day.

Wednesday should be fine but some showers were forecast on Thursday before a fine Friday.

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While it was too far off to accurately forecast, the weekend in Wellington was expected to be fine.

- The Dominion Post

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