Cronin still reflects on tragedy

'It gave me that depth of experience'

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013
Andy Cronin
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

REFLECTIONS: Andy Cronin, the 2012 Taranaki Daily News Person of the Year winner takes a look back on what life has been like since he took out the title.

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The Paritutu tragedy is never far from Andy Cronin's mind.

Although it has been 16 months since he helped winch 10 people to safety and spent weeks searching the sea for bodies, he still thinks about the event - especially when he's on the water.

A few times a year the Lifesaving New Zealand club development officer and his team have to head out to sea to retrieve a body from the water.

It's never a pleasant situation and it's often a suicide that sends the team out.

But after the pain of not being able to return the bodies of Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain and Spotswood College student Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye to their families, Mr Cronin knows how important a recovery is.

"Bringing the body back to the family helps to give them a sense of closure. Being able to return a loved one to their family is equally as important as a rescue.

"It was Paritutu that gave me that depth of experience," he said.

Nearly one year on from being named the 2012 Taranaki Daily News Person of the Year Mr Cronin and the team who worked tirelessly on the tragedy have been given prestigious awards for their efforts.

In May the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter team was awarded the country's top search and rescue honour.

The service's marine rescue crew of pilot Alan Deal, winch operator Phil Dwyer, and crewmen Jayden Strickland and Mr Cronin were awarded the New Zealand Search And Rescue Council's gold award for the most significant contribution to search and rescue in New Zealand.

Three months later they were again praised for their efforts and received the Aviation Industry Association of New Zealand's award for bravery, for pulling 10 people to safety in extreme weather conditions on August 8, 2012.

Mr Cronin said being recognised by industry professionals was humbling.

"You could think 'what if we'd got there earlier - maybe we could have found those in the water', but really there can't be any shoulda, coulda, wouldas in this situation.

"We rescued 10 people successfully and we can't change what happened before we got there."

The 32-year-old said this year has been less stressful than 2012, which is hard to believe given his son Archie is 16 months old.

"He's amazing though. He sleeps for 12 hours, right through the night.

"This parent thing is not too bad, even though we're kind of just bluffing our way through it."

Although parenting may be a new thing for Mr Cronin, winning national titles isn't.

This year's premier IRB team The East End Crew, which included Mr Cronin, James Morwood and Rebecca Busing, dominated racing at the IRB nationals.

They won the assembly rescue, the single rescue, the tube rescue and the mass rescue to take overall honours for the fifth straight year.

The lifesaver has decided to take a break from the national competition so he can be at home with his wife Emma, and his son.

"In five years there had been 20 finals and we'd won 15 of them.

"It was a nice way to finish up, but now it's time for someone else to have a go," he said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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