Beach boys heroic at holiday hotspot
MATT BOWEN, KIRSTY JOHNSTON AND CHARLES ANDERSON
A Chinese immigrant who nearly drowned at Bowentown Beach yesterday was about to give up when two Kiwi kids swam to his aid.
Good mates and cousins Sergio Schuler and Will White, both 12, half dragged, half ‘‘encouraged’’ the panicking man out of rough surf near Bowentown at about 2pm.
Sergio’s mother, Vivian, who witnessed the incident, said the man had water in his lungs but was able to speak in the ambulance before he was taken to Tauranga Hospital.
‘‘The man was saying that he would have given up if the boys hadn’t arrived when they did,’’ she said.
‘‘He was ready to give up - he was going under. So it could have been a tragedy.’’
It was the Te Aroha dairy farming family’s first day at the Bay of Plenty beach after arriving at their bach the previous evening.
Sergio said he and his cousin Will, from Waihi, were swimming when they ‘‘saw a guy half drowning with his hand up’’.
His head was just above the water, Sergio said.
‘‘He was yelling, ‘help, help’.’’
‘‘We swam out to him and we were trying to encourage him to come in. He was only just moving and the waves would hit him and he’d go under.’’
The man had been hunting for crabs when he was taken out in a rip about 70 metres offshore.
On seeing the man’s state Sergio decided to swim to shore for help.
When he got back the pair brought the large man in.
‘‘We were half dragging him, half encouraging him to come. We didn’t get too close because he was trying to push us under so he’d stay afloat. We got him to the beach and my mum and this other lady were there and when they got to him he collapsed onto the ground.’’
The man started vomiting and was in ‘‘a bad way’’ but people on the beach kept him breathing until the ambulance arrived.
Sergio put the whole episode down to good experience.
He’s planning on developing his surf lifesaving skills too.
Vivian though, was full of pride for her boy and Will.
‘‘Had he been in the water for another few minutes, I don’t think he would have survived, so very proud of the boys and what they did.’’
The 32 year-old man, who lives in Mt Eden, Auckland, is now back at home with his wife and three year-old son.
CLUB CAPTAIN PRAISES BOYS
Waihi Beach surf lifesaving club captain and police sergeant Dave Litton said in yesterday's rush there wasn't time to show enough appreciation for what the boys had done, which he said was a "huge feat".
"They didn't think twice about jumping in. And it's not like they were there looking for trouble, they were just having a swim," Litton said.
One of the boys, Will, was a member of surf-lifesaving. He had been training as a nipper for four years and the club was immensely proud of his efforts, Litton said.
"We're really proud of both the boys.It's an example of what can be achieved with even just a little bit of surf training."
Litton said the club would hope to formally recognise the pair with a surf lifesaving award as well. "And obviously we'll be encouraging Sergio to join up too."
However, Litton said it was important to remember the number one rule if you saw someone in trouble in the water - to ring for help.
"If you're a competent swimming it is possible to do something about it but the best thin is to get the right people on the way as soon as possible."
He said once again it highlighted the need to swim between the flags.
HOW THE RESCUE UNFOLDED
The cousins saw a large man, who was struggling in the water, raise his arm at Bowentown Beach near Waihi Beach about 2pm.
The boys jumped into the water and swam out to him. When they approached, the man lunged at the pair, who were from Waihi and Te Aroha, before they managed to get him under control, Senior Sergeant Rod Carpinter of Waihi Beach police said.
"Remembering, these boys are only 12 and are slightly built, the victim was a lot larger than them so what they were able to do is worthy of high praise indeed," he said.
One of the boys then swam ashore to raise the alarm with adult beach-goers before swimming back to help his cousin bring the man ashore.
Family members and adults helped the boys get him into the recovery position before starting to give him CPR.
Ambulance staff then arrived to take over the man's treatment.
He was taken to Tauranga Hospital in an unstable condition but a hospital spokesperson confirmed the man was treated and discharged yesterday afternoon.
Over the past five years an average of 10 people drowned in New Zealand waters each official Christmas holiday period - which this year runs from 4pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on January 3. Last year, nine people lost their lives in the water during this time.
A total of 87 people have drowned this year but none so far in the holiday period.
- © Fairfax NZ News