A five-year-old girl and four other children were among a group of swimmers rescued from an active rip at a Waikato beach that lifeguards, who were preparing to leave for the day, said could have easily resulted in multiple deaths.
Off-duty lifeguards spotted nine people struggling in the rip before launching into a rescue and bringing them to shore at Sunset Beach, Port Waikato.
Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service publicity officer Glennys Smith said patrols had finished a long, hot busy day on Saturday when two lifeguards noticed the group waving their hands in distress. Surf Life Saving NZ released details of the rescue today.
"They had entered the ocean and walked straight into a very active rip and were immediately in trouble," she said.
Surf lifeguard Mark Edwards ran back to the club to set up an inflatable rescue boat while another lifeguard, Caitlin Stuart, contacted those who were back at the club cleaning up from the day’s patrol.
Five other lifeguards raced to the scene, armed with rescue tubes, and swam out to rescue those close to the shoreline.
Meanwhile, Mr Edwards and Anton Baptist, challenged by glare from the sun, made several trips by boat to pick up the swimmers who had been carried out further in the fast-developing rip tide.
Mr Edwards said the youngest children were on a boogie board but had no swim fins.
An adult, who was just managing to stay afloat himself, was holding a girl above the waves, he added.
After being warmed up and checked over, the group was released by the the lifeguards.
Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service president Malcolm Beattie said the evening could easily have ended with lives lost.
In a separate event, yesterday lifeguards in Omaha rescued a missing diver offshore east of Ti Point.
Paid lifeguards from Omaha Surf Life Saving Club worked for 20 minutes to recover a troubled diver after his wife reported him missing off Omaha beach.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region CEO Matt Williams said the rescue highlighted the growing breadth of Surf Life Saving’s responsibility and displayed the capability and professionalism with which the public have come to rely on the organisation for.