Rescuers avert a triple tragedy

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 02/01/2013
Sunset beach lifeguards Shane and Mark Edwards
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
A-TEAM: Shane and Mark Edwards helped save a family of three from drowning.

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A dramatic rescue at Sunset Beach on New Year's Eve has been nominated for a national surf lifesaving rescue award after a father and his two daughters were pulled from a dangerous rip.

The drama unfolded at the Port Waikato beach about 7.30pm on Monday after a 41-year-old man entered the calmer waters of the rip tide on body boards with his daughters aged 14 and 11.

The trio got into difficulties when they were swept out to the western extremes of the rip.

Back on the beach, brothers Shane and Mark Edwards, both off-duty lifeguards, were alerted to the family's plight by a member of the public.

"This guy just comes running around the corner yelling that three people were stuck out in a hole and they needed help. So I yelled out to Mark who went straight out there on a board and I started up the IRB [inflatable rescue boat]," said 20-year-old Shane.

Harry Hobson, a newly qualified lifeguard at just 14 years old, also joined the rescue, entering the water while Shane was assisted by a child who "would've only been about five or six", who was passing by and wanted to help.

The team managed to get the family to safety where they were checked over by Harry's mother, Joanne Hobson, also a lifeguard.

The girls were just a bit shaken but the father went into hypothermic shock, said Malcolm Beattie, president of Trust Waikato Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service.

"His temperature dropped to 32 degrees and upon realising his mistake, he had a panic attack and had to be given oxygen to get through it," he said.

Mr Beattie was full of praise for the Sunset Beach lifeguards and bystanders: "Without a doubt, they saved their lives."

"He pretty much told them exactly where to go to get into trouble. He sent them out there, and a bit later he even said, 'I could've drowned them', and had a bit of a panic attack," Mr Beattie said.

"If our guys hadn't got out there when they did, they would've drowned . . . they would've just sunk."

The team at Sunset Beach have had a busier than usual holiday period having made 500 preventive action rescues over the last three days alone.

Their advice for the summer? Simple: common sense, swim between the flags, listen to lifeguards, and "if the surf isn't breaking, you shouldn't be swimming there".

The Edwards' brothers and the Hobsons have been nominated for December's Rescue of the Month which means they will come up against good mates and cousins, Sergio Schuler and Will White, both 12, who saved an Auckland property developer from drowning at Waihi Beach on Saturday.

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The two boys rescued Vincent Shao, 32, from sinking beneath the waves and drowning after he lost his footing in waist-deep water and was dragged out to sea in a rip.

- Waikato Times

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