“Heroic” off-duty police officers risked their lives to try save a seven-year-old boy who drowned at a Napier beach in February 2020, the coroner has found.
Te Ao Marama Haturini Te Pou, known as Marama, drowned on February 21, 2020, while playing at the beach along Marine Parade with his twin brother and another classmate.
“The boys were playing in the shallows, with no apparent adult supervision. There was a significant amount of surf and a strong undertow, and Marama was swept out to sea,” Coroner JP Ryan wrote in his report.
Constables Ryan Gordon and Larissa Cowlrick, who were also trained surf livesavers, swam out beyond the breakers to the seven-year-old boy and found that he wasn’t breathing.
The officers tried to resuscitate Marama while they were in the water, but after they were pulled from the water by a rescue helicopter roughly 30 minutes later, a paramedic confirmed the boy had died.
Gordon told the coroner the surf on the day was “about 10-foot (over 3 metres) in height and dumping with an offshore wind”.
The coroner paid tribute to Cowlrick and Gordon in the commendations of his report.
“Although the rescue effort by Constables Cowlrick and Gordon was unable to prevent Marama’s death, that fact does not diminish the heroic nature of their actions,” it read.
“Although they were both trained and qualified surf livesavers, they had no buoyancy or rescue equipment with them with when the plunged into the surf and swam out to rescue Marama.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that these officers placed their own lives at risk in an effort to save another; I have had a previous case where an experienced swimmer perished while attempting to rescue someone else.”
The cause of death was presumed drowning with the coroner noting “the matter of greatest concern in the circumstances surrounding Marama’s death is the fact that he was playing in the waves at the beach with his brother and another friend of similar age while apparently unsupervised”.
"It appears to me that Marama’s death would not have occurred if there had been an adult supervising this group of children.”