Life­savers hon­oured for rocky res­cue

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - BROOKE BATH

A heroic ef­fort to save two divers stranded on rocks in the Far North was last night recog­nised as surf life­sav­ing’s Res­cue of the Year.

Light was fad­ing and con­di­tions were so dan­ger­ous that a res­cue he­li­copter, po­lice, search and res­cue vol­un­teers and Coast­guard could not get to the duo at Tapo­tupotu Bay, near Cape Reinga on March 9.

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

Walker and An­der­son nav­i­gated three-me­tre swells and strong cur­rents in poor vis­i­bil­ity in an in­flat­able res­cue boat to reach the divers, who had been trapped un­der cliffs for more than five hours.

But wild con­di­tions held the res­cuers back from the rocks, and the pair faced choppy waters. Walker dived into the sea first. ‘‘I just thought, I’d go in first so Thom could stay on the boat,’’ Walker said.

‘‘I had the fear if some­thing went pear-shaped it might jeop­ar­dise the whole res­cue.’’

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

Their brav­ery was recog­nised at the Surf Life Sav­ing New Zealand a 100m swim in Awards of Ex­cel­lence at the Her­itage Ho­tel in Auck­land last night.

Walker said life­sav­ing was a way of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.

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

Levin-Waitarere’s Nathan Berry, 27, was named Life­guard of the Year for his work at the club, which in­cluded hold­ing mul­ti­ple se­nior roles and men­tor­ing others.

Kate Suter of Sum­ner was named Vol­un­teer of the Year.

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