Lifesavers honoured for rocky rescue
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.