Swimmers rescued from Dunedin's Goat Island

06:12, Mar 01 2013

Seven teenage girls were rushed to hospital, one of them serious, after being caught up in a rip-tide near Dunedin.

Four teenagers were taken via helicopter including the most seriously injured teen who suffered from water inhalation and hypothermia.

Three were taken to Dunedin Hospital by road.

Five have since been discharged. Two are undergoing observation and are in a stable condition.

They had been part of a group of 80 Year 9 pupils from Columba College on a school trip to the Purakanui-Goat Island inlet.

They were being supervised by teachers and Year 13 pupils. In total 12 girls were treated at the scene by paramedics.


Police said a number of them went swimming in the sea and was dragged 50 metres away from the shore by a rip. 
All the pupils have been accounted for.

Dunedin St John team manager Doug Third said  the girl had been helped by a surfer in the area who lifted her onto his board. She is now believed to have stabilised.

The other pupils were rescued by two surf lifeguards who were also in a water rescue squad, he said.

When the call came in, the two had been setting up for the South Island IRB Championships in Warrington, and were able to send a boat out quickly.

Another rescue swimmer, who was on the rescue helicopter, had to wade into shoulder deep water to help with the rescue.

About twenty other girls were in the water and trying to hold on to what seemed to be the blown up inner tube of a tyre, he said.

An Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust spokesman said the area was generally safe.

‘‘Over the years we had pulled one or two people out of the water there but no more so than the rest of the coastline in New Zealand,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just unfortunate. Usually, it’s pretty benign out there.’’

Columba College Board of Governors Chairman Tony Sycamore said the school will be offering counselling and support to the pupils and their families.

‘‘Today I have just been so proud of the teachers and the Year 13 girls who were helping and supporting, and the Year 9 girls as well. We’re happy to report that everyone is safe and we are lucky that when the girls returned most of their parents were here and we were able to gather them in the sports centre to update them.

"We are doing everything that we can to support the girls and and their families and the parents that were involved.’’

St John was alerted to the incident at 1.52pm and sent two ambulances and one helicopter to the scene.

The Fire Service and the Coast Guard also attended.