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Quick thinking saves a life

A cool head and the quick actions of emergency services are credited with saving a life at Castlepoint.

A teenager fell into the water fully-clothed on Saturday while clambering on Castlepoints’ notoriously treacherous reef.

Emergency services, which responded to the alarm shortly before midday, said time was of the essence in preventing a drowning.

Castlepoint Volunteer Fire Brigade controller Anders Crofoot said the teenager – who was transported to Wairarapa Hospital by ambulance – suffered injuries after being battered against the rocks near the lighthouse end of the reef.

“He was a very lucky boy. He got a bit scraped up on the rocks, getting washed around in the reef.

“Apparently, he hated having swimming lessons as a kid, but in hospital he was grateful.”

Despite some people mistaking the teenager’s black jeans and puffer jacket for a wetsuit, members of the public were instrumental in raising the alarm, Crofoot said.

He estimated the brigade had pulled the boy, who was showing signs of hypothermia, from the water within 20 minutes of being notified.

“He was basically lying on his back, backstroking. He was cool, calm, and collected.”

A huge swell breaks over the reef at Castlepoint. PHOTO/SARA-JANE ELLMERS
A huge swell breaks over the reef at Castlepoint. PHOTO/SARA-JANE ELLMERS

The rescue was copybook in the coastal settlement, where the water temperature has hovered around 18 degrees Celsius since the start of March, with a low of 16 degrees on Saturday.

“In this situation, we usually commandeer a fishing boat, but it wasn’t a particularly nice day, so we launched one of the brigade member’s.”

Crofoot said a paramedic holidaying at Castlepoint met the catamaran and the teenager at the beach.

“He was very cold. The paramedic said he probably wouldn’t have made it much longer. Time was of the essence. They were most concerned that he might have inhaled seawater, but his lungs were clear.”

Life Flight confirmed the Westpac Rescue Helicopter responded to the incident but was stood down.

Crofoot said the near-drowning served as a reminder about the dangers of some parts of the reef and general water safety, particularly how to treat hypothermia: “You want to get them dry and warm them up slowly”.

“There are paths on the reef that are quite safe and other areas that are possible to walk out to, but you don’t want to get adventurous or go near the edge.

“He could swim well enough and kept a cool head, which is probably the primary reason why he managed to survive.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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