Swimmers saved from close calls

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012
Three volunteer lifeguards saved two teen boys
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ

OVERTIME: Volunteer lifeguards Adam Fraser, left, Katie Watts and Kent Fraser, were off-duty when they took to the water at Fitzroy Beach on Saturday to save two 14-year-olds caught in a rip.

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Swimmers were rescued from rough seas at both ends of the Taranaki coast on Saturday.

About noon, two 14-year-old boys got caught in a rip at Fitzroy Beach and were saved by off-duty lifeguards. In South Taranaki, two men in their early 20s were rescued from a rip on Opunake Beach about 3pm after they decided to swim outside the flags.

Taranaki Surf Lifesaving club development officer Andy Cronin said it was not a great start to the summer and both rescues had been close calls.

"It's only the third weekend of patrols, and this is not what we want to be doing. But the upside is that thanks to some quick action from lifeguards, nobody drowned."

He said the boys at Fitzroy had been out surfing but had dumped their boards on the beach and gone for a swim instead.

Off-duty volunteer lifeguards Katie Watts, Adam Fraser, Kent Fraser and Mitchell O'Neill were having a coffee by the beach before their watch started when they saw the boys in trouble. Two of them jumped straight in the water and rescued the boys from the rip.

Ms Watts said it had happened very quickly. "Within about five to 10 minutes. People don't realise how fast you can get into trouble."

Being off-duty, there was no time to launch an inflatable rescue boat and instead two of the lifeguards took boards out to help bring the boys back to shore.

Kent Fraser said one of the youths had taken on a substantial amount of water and was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital.

He said there was often a dangerous low-tide rip at Fitzroy Beach.

"It's the same one the guy died in last year."

Ms Watts said the sea had been wild that morning.

"If we'd been on duty that morning we couldn't have opened the beach, there was nowhere that was safe to put the flags up."

Mr Cronin said instead of swimming between the flags at Opunake Beach, the two Hawera men had gone swimming in the middle of a permanent tailrace rip where water exits the power station.

"One of the lifeguards went over to tell them to move but they were already in trouble.

Lifeguards deployed an inflatable rescue boat and returned the men to shore where they were checked by paramedics and declined to go to hospital.

Mr Cronin said it was a timely reminder for people to take care in the sea and to swim between the flags.

"People need to think about the speed at which they can get into difficulty.

"The ocean doesn't just stop making waves because you're having trouble breathing."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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