Off-duty teen lifeguards help eight people caught in rip at Fitzroy Beach

JANE MATTHEWS/STUFF
Alex Fraser, 16, helped out with eight water rescues in less than two hours at Fitzroy Beach.

A group of off-duty young lifeguards have been praised for stepping in when a powerful low-tide rip caught out a number of swimmers in New Plymouth.

They included 16-year-old Alex Fraser, who helped to save seven people in less than two hours. And as she told her story she had to dash off to help another.

Alex's busy Thursday began around 1pm when she was swimming among hundreds of others at Fitzroy Beach and three people got into difficulties.

Alex Fraser, 16, took part in eight water rescues in less than two hours at Fitzroy Beach - she was off duty at the time.
JANE MATTHEWS/STUFF
Alex Fraser, 16, took part in eight water rescues in less than two hours at Fitzroy Beach - she was off duty at the time.

The Fitzroy Surf Lifesaving Club volunteer didn't hesitate to swim out to a young man who was waving his arms frantically.

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"He had a younger child out there with him and they were trying to swim to shore."

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand president Brian Velvin said there could have been fatalities at Fitzroy Beach on Thursday if volunteer lifeguards like Fraser didn't happen to be there.
JANE MATTHEWS/STUFF
Surf Lifesaving New Zealand president Brian Velvin said there could have been fatalities at Fitzroy Beach on Thursday if volunteer lifeguards like Fraser didn't happen to be there.

Alex said the rip was quite strong so they were having "a lot of trouble" getting to the sand.

Alex was joined by other off-duty young lifeguards and together they helped get the pair to shore, and also helped another swimmer caught in the rip.

The beach's daily summer patrol finished last week, so Alex and other off-duty volunteers decided to do the job themselves.

They included Alex's sister Drew, 15, and Jayde Eleman, Lucy Elliott, Poppy Cambell, Finn and Caleb Brimelow, Darren James and Ross Peters.

Alex said: "I was just heading down to set up the rip flags and my sister yelled out 'there's two kids out the back, they're caught in a rip, can you go see what's happening?'

"So I head out with a rescue board and these two kids had no idea they were caught in a rip at all."

Alex and others managed to pull two more people to safety, and two more swimmers were pulled in by the other volunteers.

About an hour later, while talking to Stuff Alex and the others had to rush out to sea again when another person became caught in the rip.

New Zealand Surf Life Saving president and Fitzroy Surf Life Saving Club patron Brian Velvin also happened to be at the beach and had nothing but positive things to say about how swiftly and successfully the off-duty volunteer surf lifesavers acted.

"You can imagine what would happen if they weren't here, it'd be fatalities," Velvin said.

"I love it, it's what we train them for. It's quite rewarding."

He said most of the people rescued were "youngsters".

He phoned the police as a precaution when the first rescue began but they weren't needed.

"The girls did great."

Most of the people pulled from the water were assessed by St John Ambulance and were fine, but were warned that the effects of swallowing water could occur when they get home.

Velvin said that although having eight water rescues in two hours wasn't normal, it wasn't the most they'd had.

"One day last year we had 16 in an hour.

"There's not a dull moment here."

Stuff