Far North surf res­cue team hon­oured

The Bay Chronicle - - WHAT’S ON - BROOKE BATH

With light fad­ing fast, Far North life­savers swam through pum­melling waves and strong cur­rents to save two divers stranded on rocks un­der the cliffs at Tapo­tupotu Bay, near Cape Reinga.

Thom An­der­son, 30, stu­dent An­thony Walker, 17, and fel­low life savers Tony Walker and Kate Clarke were 125km away in Ahipara when they got the call to help on March 9.

Light was fad­ing and con­di­tions were so dan­ger­ous that the North­land Emer­gency Ser­vices Trust res­cue he­li­copter, po­lice, search and res­cue vol­un­teers and Coast­guard couldn’t get to the divers.

Walker and An­der­son nav­i­gated three me­tre swells in poor vis­i­bil­ity in an In­flat­able Res­cue Boat to reach the divers who were trapped for more than five hours.

But wild con­di­tions held them back from the rocks and the pair faced a 100m swim in choppy waters. Walker, the youngest of the pair, dived into the wa­ter first.

‘‘I just thought, I’d go in first so Thom could stay on the boat. I had the fear if some­thing went pair shaped it might jeop­ar­dise the whole res­cue,’’ Walker said.

Walker se­cured the youngest diver and swam him back to the IRB. ’’When I clipped him on I was pretty re­lieved.’’

They re­turned the divers to the beach be­fore 8.30pm, just as dark­ness was clos­ing in.

Their heroic ef­forts were recog­nised as they won the Res­cue of the Year at the Surf Life Sav­ing New Zealand Awards of Ex­cel­lence.

The Far North’s Thom An­der­son, a fire­fighter for the Ahipara Fire Bri­gade, said the res­cue they were recog­nised for was one of the most chal­leng­ing they had un­der­taken.

‘‘It was pretty choppy and big swells... but we just got on with it,’’ An­der­son said.

For An­der­son, res­cu­ing peo­ple was good karma.

‘‘I guess I do it be­cause I hope some­one will be there when I get in the s***,’’ he laughed.

Walker said be­ing a life­saver was some­thing special he could give back to the com­mu­nity.

‘‘I like help­ing peo­ple and see­ing their re­ac­tions from peo­ple when we save them,’’ Walker said.

‘‘I’m go­ing to stick with it for as long as I can. Be­ing a life saver you end up be­ing part of a re­ally big fam­ily.’’

Far North Surf Res­cue of the Year team. From left Dave Ross, An­thony Walker, Tony Walker, Thom An­der­son and Kate Clarke with BP’s Ha­ley Mahoney.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.