Heroic group effort to save boy from drowning

MARTY SHARPE AND TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 15:31 11/03/2013

Beachgoers and police link hands to save a boy swept out to sea in Napier.

Joshua McQuoid and Hikairo Ratapu
EVA BRADLEY/ Fairfax NZ
MATES FIRST: Joshua McQuoid (left) was saved from big waves when his friend Hikairo Ratapu (right) raised the alarm.

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"I'm going to die," Josh McQuoid thought as the waves pounded down on him.

The 12-year-old was caught by a wave and swept out while playing with friends at the beach on Napier's Marine Pde about 5pm yesterday. It took four police officers and a human chain of people to drag him from the surf.

Josh and his friends had been in town when they decided to go down to the beach. They were just putting their feet in the water when the waves bowled them over.

"It was only knee-deep," Josh said, still struggling to believe what had happened.  

"That was what surprised me, and it swept me off my feet."

The Napier Intermediate student is tall and fit for his age, but he was no match for the waves.

Coughing and spluttering, he focused on keeping his head above water.

"It was really hard, it flipped me around heaps of times ... I didn't know which way was up."

A German tourist went to his aid but was unable to keep a hold of him.

Napier Constable Paul Bailey stripped off to his underwear when he arrived on the scene.

"We could see [constable] Bryan Farquharson getting knocked over in the waves. When I ran down I could see Bryan was talking to the boy, who was screaming and crying.

"Between waves I could see that he could touch the bottom. I thought well if he can touch the bottom I'm going out to grab him because I'll be able to touch the bottom too. But when the first wave hit it took me straight off my feet," Bailey said.

He managed to get through the waves and grab Josh, who by that stage was "a dead weight with no fight left in him".

"We were thrown all over the place," Bailey said.

"On one occasion I got up and I couldn't see him. I thought 'oh no, that's it, he's lost'. He was totally submerged but fortunately he banged into my legs as he was getting sucked back out again. That's how I found him again," he said.

"Then we saw the human chain they'd formed and I was able to pass him over," Bailey said.

Josh, who was unresponsive at that stage, was moved up the beach, where members of the public gave him first aid.

Hikiroa Ratapu, 13, said it was pretty scary watching his friend struggle in the waves. He yelled for help as soon as he noticed Josh being dragged out.

Josh's father Shane McQuoid, said Hikiroa Ratapu was their "little hero" for quickly raising the alarm.

"If he wasn't thinking straight he would have jumped in," he said, adding that could have easily led to two drownings.

Josh was discharged after a brief observation in Hawke's Bay Hospital last night.

His mother Kath Kuru said the police phone call was every parent's worst nightmare.

She had been trying to ring Josh earlier, to hurry him home for tea. She had no idea he and his friends had gone down to the beach.

She was both relieved he'd survived yet concerned he'd put himself so close to danger.

"Never do that to us again," she told Josh in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

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Ms Kuru and Mr McQuoid just wanted to thank everyone that had helped their youngest son out of trouble.

"We just want to show our heartfelt thanks and gratitude."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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