Bystanders' human chain saves drowning boy

SOPHIE SPEER AND TOM HUNT
Last updated 08:07 11/03/2013

Beachgoers and police link hands to save a boy swept out to sea in Napier.

Joshua McQuoid
RESCUED: Joshua McQuoid, 12.

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The father of a boy saved from drowning in pounding waves credits a ''little hero'' for the fact his son is still alive.

Twelve-year-old Joshua McQuoid was caught by a wave and swept out while playing with a friend at the beach on Napier's Marine Pde at 4.55pm yesterday.

A human chain of people formed to drag Joshua from the surf, almost certainly saving his life.

His father, Shane, this morning said if Joshua's childhood friend Hikiroa Ratapu, 13, had not quickly raised the alarm things could have turned out much worse.

''If he wasn't thinking straight he would have jumped in,'' he said, adding that could have easily led to two drownings.

Hikiroa, 13, a Napier Boys High School pupil, went to hospital with the family last night, Mr McQuoid said.

''We all thanked him and told him what a little hero he was.''

Joshua, a Napier Intermediate pupil, was physically fine today but a bit overwhelmed by the publicity of his rescue so was taking the day off school.

''Funnily enough, he can't see what all the fuss is about.''

He also thanked members of the public and the police who helped in the rescue.

''I just wish I could thank each and every one. Without them basically my son wouldn't be here.''

They had gone to town yesterday but decided to go to the beach, when a wave knocked them both down, Mr McQuoid said.

"I think they had their feet in the water and from what Josh said he turned around to speak to his mate when the wave hit.

"It knocked them down, and his mate and another girl managed to haul themselves out of the water but [Josh] got swept in."

Joshua tried to swim to shore but kept getting dragged out and quickly tired while trying to stay afloat as waves broke over him, Mr McQuoid said.

"His exact words were he felt like he was in a washing machine."

A Police spokesman said a German tourist went to the boy's aid but was unable to keep a hold of him.

The conditions were described as "treacherous with dumping waves and an extremely strong undertow".

A police officer then swam to the boy but was unable to hold him due to the heavy surf.

He was joined by a few members of the public who tried to help.

A second officer then entered the water and reached the boy, at times losing hold of him as the boy went underwater.

He was under for "considerable periods of up to 20 seconds at a time and fading fast", police said.

About 12 members of the public and four police officers then desperately grabbed hold of each other to form a human chain, managing to pull the boy to shore.

Initially he was "unresponsive, physically spent, and could not move unaided".

He was moved up on to the beach where members of the public gave him first aid.

Senior Sergeant Mike Stevenson said the actions of the police officers were "admirable".

"The first two officers who braved the conditions, they are extremely admirable and displayed a lot of bravery getting into the surf.

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"If they had not done what they had done I'm positive the boy may not still be with us."

He said the stretch of coastline was notorious and was characterised by a "pretty steep drop off, thumping waves and really strong undertow".

The two police officers, who became exhausted by the surf, were also helped to shore.

Mr McQuoid said it showed how dangerous the beach was.

"I had talked to him about that beach before and what it can be like with big waves."

Joshua was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital by ambulance and later discharged.

The family later visited the police where they saw video from a witness.

"The waves were just huge and the force of [them]. It smashed down and dragged back," Mr McQuoid said.

Mr Stevenson said he was proud of the heroism displayed by both the first two officers plus the members of the public who helped.

- The Dominion Post

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