Police: Seagulls smarter than storm jetskiers

Last updated 15:00 24/12/2012

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A man and his son were rescued by police yesterday after going in search of crayfish on a dodgy jetski while severe weather and marine warnings were in place.

But police are condemning the actions of their family members who took a second jetski to recover the first.

Despite wind gusts of 35 to 40kmh and four-metre swells, the 55-year-old man and his 15-year-old son went out yesterday on the jetski with no emergency equipment to check three crayfish pots.

The pair left around 12pm from Langs Beach to go to McKenzie Bay on the east coast, south of Whangarei.

When they failed to return a worried person took a second jetski out to search for the pair but failed to find them and called police around 3pm.

Police Search and Rescue, Coastguard, two IRBs from Mangawhai and Waipu Surf Lifesaving clubs and the Northland Electricity Rescue Helicopter were called in to search for the missing pair.

Just before 6pm they were located 2.5km offshore with the jetski which had broken down after not being serviced.

The 15-year-old boy, who had early signs of hypothermia, was winched onto the helicopter and the man was picked up by the Whangarei Coastguard.

Search and Rescue Incident Controller Constable Sue Grocott says the action by family members to rescue the second jetski was "completely irresponsible, considering two family members had just been rescued from rough sea and were lucky to survive."

Northland Police Search and Rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the "sheer stupidity" of these people going out in the conditions defied logic.

"They put their lives and the lives of those rescuing them at risk," he said.

"Police are very disappointed in their actions and a family nearly lost two of their members just two days before Christmas. They are so lucky to have survived this ordeal."

Metcalfe said the police were not called until two and a half hours after the pair went missing, so the search needed to cover a wide area of 77 square nautical miles.

"The trained police officer, who was looking for the jetski from the helicopter, just spotted it as the helicopter was flying past. A boat would probably have never found them in those conditions."

Metcalfe said the weather was so bad that the Coastguard Rescue Centre was monitoring the marine conditions every 15 minutes to ensure the safety of their crew.

"Even the seagulls knew to stay on dry land," he said.

"The conditions were so marginal that we couldn't get a fixed wing aircraft in the air to search and we were lucky to be able to use a helicopter.

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''Last year 14 people drowned in Northland and already five have drowned this year, we don't want any more deaths on the water.''

- Auckland Now

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