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Surf lifeguards kept busy over Labour weekend with tragic death of rock fisher reported at Piha

An intensely busy Labour weekend for surf lifeguards has ended with the tragic death of a rock fisher at Auckland’s Piha beach on Monday evening, says Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ).

Steve Fisher, SLSNZ CEO, says that volunteer surf lifeguards across the country once again demonstrated their professionalism, working to perform preventative actions and rescues where required, to keep beachgoers safe.

These surf lifeguards, he says, collectively worked over 3,000 hours throughout the long weekend. He also thanked the public for exercising common sense and taking measures to keep themselves safe.

“We saw seven rescues over the weekend, by all accounts some of them in quite difficult conditions, with large swells on the west coast of the North Island, as well as waves on east coast beaches.

“We saw large numbers of beachgoers throughout the Northern and Eastern regions over the long weekend, particularly at Raglan on Saturday, where the number of beachgoers peaked at over a thousand. We also saw big numbers at Mount Maunganui on Monday,” he says.

Total peak head count for the long weekend reached nearly 6,000 people at patrolled beaches across the country.

“Overall, people were well-behaved and aware of the many dangers around our coastlines. We are glad that our safety messages are getting through,” he says.

“But we still saw several major incidents. People need to continue to be aware of the risks, remain vigilant in and around the water, and continue to follow our safety messages.”

The long weekend saw several major incidents, including the lucky rescue of three boaties who were crossing the Port Waikato River bar in large 2m swells at low tide.

Thankfully, all three were wearing life jackets and were able to be successfully rescued by surf lifeguards from the Kariaotahi and Sunset Surf Life Saving clubs (SLSC), who dispatched several inflatable resuce boats (IRB) as well as a rescue watercraft to perform the successful rescue.

Far North Surf Rescue and Baylys Beach SLSC responded to support the search for a missing diver at Herekino River bar on Monday. A search was conducted alongside Helimed and Coastguard Air Patrol and remains ongoing. On Monday, Kāpiti Search and Rescue (SAR) supported the search for a diver who has been missing since 19 October.

Surf lifeguards continue to assist with both operations as required. 

Reported death of rock fisher at Piha Steve Fisher says that his sincere sympathies go out to the family, whānau, and friends of the person who died at Auckland’s Piha Beach yesterday.

Surf lifeguards from Piha SLSC were called to respond to reports of a rock fisher in the water at dusk on Monday evening, in 2m swells. It is understood the fisher was not wearing a life jacket.

It is the third such incident involving rock fishers at Piha since the beginning of spring, and while the exact circumstances of the incident have been referred to the coroner, Fisher highlights the importance of rock fishers ensuring they have appropriate safety equipment, including wearing a life jacket, as well as taking a conservative approach when it comes to weather and beach conditions – which could change rapidly.

“The death at Piha this weekend is utterly tragic. We send our sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of the fisher. A death at one of our beaches affects not just the surf lifeguards involved but reverberates throughout the entire surf lifesaving community. It’s something that weighs heavily on all of us.

“While we don’t know the exact circumstances or cause of this incident, it is also a good reminder that the conditions on the coast can change rapidly. This highlights the importance of ensuring you have all the correct safety equipment, in particular, a life jacket, and that you check the forecast conditions – if in doubt, stay out,” he says.


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