Father drowns at Foxton

A 51-year-old Palmerston North man has drowned after being caught in a rip at Foxton Beach.

Father-of-five Michael McGregor was swimming at the beach about 2pm on Saturday when he became caught in the rip.

He was pulled from the water by another swimmer but could not be revived by ambulance officers, Police Inspector Michael Coleman said.

Mr McGregor had been staying at the Foxton Bible Camp with the Te Aroha Noa Community Services group from Palmerston North.

The group was conducting a family-based event at the bible camp over the weekend, which involved 110 children and parents.

Te Aroha Noa Community Services chief executive officer Bruce Maden said the drowning was a tragic accident at what had been a positive event.

"The family are deeply traumatised by what's happened but there has been a tremendous amount of community support for them."

Mr McGregor and his family were heavily involved in the group's activities, Mr Maden said.

The children who witnessed the drowning had been spoken to but many were too young to understand what had happened, Mr Maden said.

There were no surf lifesavers on patrol at the time, as the Foxton Surf Lifesaving Club patrol does not operate on Saturdays due to a lack of members.

Mr Maden said Mr McGregor's family wanted to prevent future drownings by appealing to local and national government for more lifeguards at Foxton Beach.

"They were keen to raise awareness to see if one of Palmerston North's key beaches can extend their lifeguard services."

The death has been referred to the coroner.

Just four days earlier Levin fishermen Steven Michael Militch, 55, and Billy Tane Apiata, 51, drowned off the coast of Waitarere Beach.

There were 39 drowning deaths throughout New Zealand from December 2008 to February 2009.

Manawatu Standard