News from NZ Police
A Northland father and son are lucky to be alive after venturing into rough sea on a jetski yesterday afternoon.
Despite severe marine weather warnings, about 12pm a 55-year-old man and his 15-year-old son went out on their jetski to check three crayfish pots.
They left from Langs Beach to go to McKenzie Bay on the east coast south of Whangärei, and headed into rough conditions with wind gusts of 35 to 40kmh and four metre swells.
When they failed to return an hour later another person went out on a jetski to search for them. He failed to locate them and Police were alerted just after 3pm.
Police Search and Rescue were called in and with the help of the Whangärei and Kawau Coastguards, two IRBs from Mangawhai and Waipu Surf Lifesaving clubs, and the Northland Electricity Rescue Helicopter they searched for the man and his son.
At 5.45pm they were located by a police officer in the helicopter 2.5km offshore just north of the Waipu River mouth. They were still with the jetski and the 15-year-old boy was winched onto the helicopter and the man was picked up by the Whangärei Coastguard.
The father had suffered no ill effects from the four hour ordeal, but the boy was very cold and had early signs hypothermia.
Northland Police Search and Rescue Co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe says the “sheer stupidity” of these people going out in these conditions defies logic.
“They put their lives and the lives of those rescuing them at risk. Police are very disappointed in their actions and a family nearly lost two of their members just two days before Christmas. They are so lucky to have survived this ordeal.”
Mr Metcalfe says the weather was so bad that the Coastguard Rescue Centre was monitoring the marine conditions every 15 minutes to ensure the safety of their crew.
“Even the seagulls knew to stay on dry land. The conditions were so marginal that we couldn’t get a fixed wing aircraft in the air to search and we were lucky to be able to use a helicopter.”
Mr Metcalfe says the police were not called until two and a half hours after the pair went missing, so the search needed to cover a wide area of 77 square nautical miles.
“The trained police officer, who was looking for the jetski from the helicopter, just spotted it as the helicopter was flying past. A boat would probably have never found them in those conditions.”
Police Search and Rescue Incident Controller Constable Sue Grocott says this incident is a timely reminder for people to check the marine forecast before heading out on the water and definitely not to venture out in rough sea.
She says the jetski broke down while out checking the craypots and it hadn’t been serviced since last summer. “People need to have their boats checked before taking them out to make sure they are seaworthy.”
Ms Grocott says the pair had no marine radio, cellphone, flares or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). “It is essential to have some form of communication, so if you get into trouble you can be located easily. You can get hand held marine radios or EPIRBs.”
Ms Grocott says if people get into difficulty on the water then they should call Police for help sooner rather than later. “This means we have a smaller search area to cover and there is less chance of people making the wrong decisions and getting into more trouble.”
“The only saving grace was that the pair had on lifejackets and was wearing surf wetsuits.
Last year 14 people drowned in Northland and already five have drowned this year, we don’t want any more deaths on the water.”