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Kiwi search and rescue crews recognised internationally for saving lives of trio thrown into sea

New Zealand’s search and rescue teams have earned international recognition for saving three people off the Port Waikato bar earlier in May.

The 2019 International Maritime Rescue Federation Awards in London earlier this week recognised Coastguard New Zealand, Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi, Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter, the Police and its Eagle helicopter team.

They were named runners-up in the Outstanding Team Contribution to Maritime Search and Rescue Operations for their rescue efforts.

Representatives from the teams received a plaque from Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Princess Anne’s husband.

The New Zealand rescue also won the IMRF’s People’s Choice Award decided by a public vote on social media.

The teams saved a man, woman and child who were thrown into the sea off Port Waikato on May 25 after their boat stalled and overturned in rough conditions.

The Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre co-ordinated the rescue. Three Coastguard rescue vessels were dispatched from Waiuku and Papakura, together with shore-based search teams from the Police, Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter, the Police Eagle helicopter and Surf Life Saving.

Eagle helicopters located the three people within four minutes using infrared heat-detection equipment.

A rescue helicopter tried to take a paramedic to the trio in the water, but was unable to due to the dangerous conditions. Instead, the surf lifesavers launched a rescue boat while the helicopter’s searchlights guided them.

The woman and child were critically hypothermic and the man went into cardiac arrest en route to the hospital. All three made a full recovery.


Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence (left) with representatives from Coastguard New Zealand, Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi and Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Source: Coastguard New Zealand