Too many people still have a lax attitude towards water safety, which is seeing maritime Police repeating themselves “all too often”.
Sergeant Richard Kennedy works in Wellington’s Police Maritime Unit and says a frustrating number of callouts could be avoided.
“While a lot of people are listening to the advice and taking actions that could save their life, unfortunately the message isn’t getting through to everyone.
“We are still seeing people out there on the water without lifejackets, or children not being supervised, so there’s nothing or no-one there to help if they get into trouble.
“We’re talking about things like keeping an eye on children when they’re on the water, putting a lifejacket on, knowing the marine weather forecast, avoiding alcohol while doing water activities, keeping within your limits and generally treating water safety as a priority. Tragedy doesn’t discriminate and if something goes wrong, it could happen before you can react.”
Around midday on 22 January, Police received a report that a boat had capsized and several people were in the water.
The 16-foot boat was launched from Lowry Bay. As the boat got further down the Eastbourne coastline the sea conditions worsened, forcing the skipper to slow down which allowed the following waves to spill over the stern of the boat.
The skipper made the decision to return to Lowry Bay but as he turned the boat around, it capsized.
Four adults were thrown clear of the vessel, however a child was trapped in the cabin space, where there was an air pocket. The adults managed to push the boat towards the shore, where Police met them.
An officer from Police’s rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) Hukatai dived under the vessel and rescued the child while the other occupants and bystanders on the beach were attempting to break the suction of the upturned vessel in the waves.
“Thankfully no-one was seriously injured or worse during this incident” Sergeant Kennedy says.
The boat was equipped with lifejackets and flares; the child was wearing a lifejacket and the adults were in wetsuits, which are a suitable alternative if they are full body suits and worn at all times.
“The skipper stated that everything happened so fast. We’re relieved this had a positive outcome, but it could have been so much worse.
“Treat water safety as your top priority for all water activities and get home safely,” Sergeant Kennedy says.
“This is a clear example that lifejackets save lives,” Maritime NZ’s Scott Bernie says.
Maritime NZ recommends watercraft users undertake courses such as those available through Coastguard to help them prepare for being on the water. Advice is also available at www.saferboating.org.nz.
“Skippers should not leave the shore if they are not adequately prepared to go out on the vessel they are in charge of.
“Overconfidence can be one of the biggest risks on the water,” Scott Bernie says.