Matiu-Somes Island swimmer rescued

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 16:10 23/12/2013

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A man who tried to swim from Petone to Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington harbour has been airlifted to hospital with hypothermia today.

The man, in his 20s, set off from Petone as part of a four man group, three swimmers and one kayaker around 11.15am.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman Dave Greenberg said the man, from Lower Hutt, got separated from the other swimmers and started to suffer.

"The swimmer got into a bit of trouble but the kayaker was able to get him aboard the kayak [and] manage to wave down a passing boat who picked up the swimmer and brought him to the wharf at Somes Island".

The man was flown to Wellington Hospital, where he is in a serious condition, Mr Greenberg said.

He had been wearing a wetsuit, but his body temperature had dropped to 31 degrees Celsius, well below the normal human temperature of 36 degrees, making him moderately hypothermic.

He had spent around two hours in the water.

Mr Greenberg said the water was choppy, but the other two swimmers had made it safely to the island.

DOC staff and an off-duty ambulance officer on the island treated him for hypothermia.

"On our arrival the man was found to be conscious but quite hypothermic," Mr Greenberg said. "He had been stripped out of his wetsuit and given dry clothes and wrapped in blankets prior to the helicopters."

Matiu-Somes Island is 3km from the beach at Petone. An annual swimming race from the island to the beach has been held since 1948.

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- The Dominion Post

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