Finalist of the IMRF Awards 2019 Category: Team

Winner of the IMRF People's Choice Award 2019

In May this year, a man, woman and child were in a small boat at the entrance to the Waikato River, when, at about 17:30, the boat stalled and flipped, tossing them into the freezing water.

They managed to call the police and a large multi-agency search and rescue operation began, co-ordinated by the Coastguard Northern Operations Centre.

Three Coastguard rescue vessels were dispatched from Waiuku and Papakura, together with shore-based search teams from the police, the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter, a police helicopter with thermal imaging equipment and a Surf Life Saving inflatable rescue boat (IRB).

There was almost no wind. The sea was flat, but waves breaking on the bar at the entrance to the river were huge, creating a lot of sea spray and hampering visibility for the rescuers. It was a very dark night, with no moon and the sand on the nearby beach was black.

The Police Eagle helicopter located the three people in the water – barely alive - with infrared heat-detection equipment.  The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter positioned overhead for a winch operation, but lack of visual reference and sea spray meant the operation was abandoned.  

It was not safe for rescue boats to cross the bar, so the IRB searched using the rescue helicopter’s landing light, while Police vehicles parked on the beach and used their headlights to help visibility in 1.5 to 2m breaking waves.

In just four minutes the patients were found, taken onboard and returned to shore.

The rescue helicopter landed to medivac the patients. The woman and child were critically hypothermic, with the woman suffering cardiac arrest several times on the way to hospital. The man was cold but not critical, taken to hospital for monitoring.

The rescue involved intense teamwork across all organisations involved and thanks to their skill and dedication, all three casualties were safely and made a full recovery.

Photo Gallery

IMRF Awards 2019 - FInalist - Coastguard New Zealand, Surf Life Saving Kariotahi, New Zealand Police, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust - multi-agency rescue at Port Waikato River Bar, North Island, New Zealand

Or view this Gallery in Flickr.

Photo Gallery of the IMRF Awards 2019 Day

IMRF Awards 2019 - Ceremony - 10 September 2019

Or view the full IMRF Awards 2019 album in Flickr.