Otago Daily Times

Lo­cals warn of un­for­giv­ing river

- KAYLA HODGE kayla.hodge@odt.co.nz Dunedin · Otago Region

THE Waitaki River can be un­for­giv­ing for even the most ex­pe­ri­enced white­baiters, lo­cals say.

White­baiter Craig An­drew last night re­mained in an in­duced coma and a crit­i­cal but sta­ble con­di­tion in Dunedin Hospi­tal’s ICU after be­ing swept 3km out to sea while fish­ing at the river mouth on Thurs­day.

Mr An­drew was winched from the water by the Otago Re­gional Res­cue He­li­copter but had a heart at­tack while trav­el­ling to Dunedin Hospi­tal.

Yes­ter­day, the Otago Daily

re­ported Mr An­drew had been wear­ing a life jacket.

How­ever, Mr An­drew’s step­fa­ther, Bruce Caw­ley, last night said he heard his step­son had not been wear­ing a life jacket.

‘‘I am dis­ap­pointed to hear that — he had it in the car but didn't wear it.

‘‘I bought it for him.’’

It was go­ing to be a ‘‘long road’’ of re­cov­ery for Mr An­drew.

Vet­eran white­baiter Barry Fraser ar­rived on site dur­ing Thurs­day’s in­ci­dent and said it was a mis­take.

‘‘Some­thing hap­pens . . . and you don’t get a sec­ond chance — that’s just the way the river is.’’

Over the past three weeks, two white­baiters, each with more than 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, had been swept from the north side of the Waitaki River mouth out to sea.

In the in­ci­dent last month, a man wear­ing a life jacket re­turned to shore un­aided.

For 35 years Mr Fraser has vis­ited the river, wit­ness­ing sev­eral ac­ci­dents, with ‘‘some suc­cess, and some not suc­cess­ful’’.

Fish­er­men should know their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and safety pre­cau­tions, such as a life jacket or wet­suit, were im­por­tant, he said.

‘‘It’s good, be­cause if you go out it in­creases your chance of com­ing back . . . but it also gives peo­ple a false sense [of se­cu­rity], and that doesn’t mean to say you’re com­ing back.’’

He car­ried ex­tra life jack­ets on his quad bike, ‘‘threw them out’’ to peo­ple in need, and said ev­ery­one looked after each other on the river mouth.

The river was par­tic­u­larly un­for­giv­ing for new fish­er­men, and those with ex­pe­ri­ence tried to keep them from mak­ing mis­takes.

‘‘Ninety per­cent of them take your ad­vice, but we’ve got no au­thor­ity over them.’’

South­ern dis­trict search and res­cue co­or­di­na­tor Se­nior Sergeant Brian Benn con­firmed po­lice would host a pub­lic ‘‘preven­tion and ed­u­ca­tion’’ meet­ing in Waitaki in the wake of the two in­ci­dents.

It fol­lowed meet­ings held in Taieri, after two res­cue op­er­a­tions there ear­lier this year.

The main mes­sage: wear a life jacket.

‘‘The mes­sage is, if you are around water, nearby, on the shores . . . it makes a lot of sense to be wear­ing a life jacket. It’s not what the law says, but it’s for keep­ing you safe.’’

Kaik Fish­ing Vil­lage Camp res­i­dent Janet Chap­pell no­ticed more peo­ple had been swept away in the last few years, but said it could be the re­sult of higher river lev­els.

‘‘If you’ve got a high river and it’s tuck­ing away at the back of your feet, you’re go­ing to go in.’’

‘‘The waves have been push­ing two ways . . . and it just sucks peo­ple in.’’

Gle­navy Fish­ing Camp res­i­dents, who de­clined to be named, said the river had been more dan­ger­ous re­cently than in re­cent years.

‘‘It’s dan­ger­ous, but you’ve got to take care of your­self. Don’t be silly and don’t take risks.’’

 ?? PHO­TOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY ?? Chanc­ing his luck . . . A white­baiter fishes in the break­ing waves on the north side of the Waitaki River mouth yes­ter­day.
PHO­TOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY Chanc­ing his luck . . . A white­baiter fishes in the break­ing waves on the north side of the Waitaki River mouth yes­ter­day.
 ??  ?? Dan­ger is al­ways lurk­ing . . . Vet­eran white­baiter Barry Fraser and his dog Peanut at the Waitaki River mouth.
Dan­ger is al­ways lurk­ing . . . Vet­eran white­baiter Barry Fraser and his dog Peanut at the Waitaki River mouth.

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