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Dramatic Ngawi sea rescue

People assist on shore during a rescue effort to save two men stuck underneath a capsized boat. PHOTO/LIFE FLIGHT

Duo lucky to be alive after boat cabin submerged
Scuba diver risks life in underwater rescue

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Two Ngawi men were lucky to escape with their lives when the boat they were in capsized off the South Wairarapa coast on Friday morning.

A couple of volunteer firefighters who assisted in the rescue effort said it was about 20 minutes from when the boat overturned to when the men were freed from the submerged cabin and they were expecting the worst.

“We thought we were going to be pulling bodies out of the water,” Ngawi firefighter Kane Sim said.

Instead, both men, in their 70s, were relatively unscathed, escaping the ordeal with minor injuries.

Ngawi firefighter Jess De Menech said this was down to an amazing community effort.

A view of Friday’s rescue scene. PHOTO/LIFE FLIGHT

Emergency services were called to the small fishing village at 9.48am.

The boat had three people on board and was at sea out from the golf course.

“About three big swells came through,” De Menech said.

“They managed to get over the first two but the third was really big and it rolled the boat and flipped it over.”

One of the men on board had been preparing to dive to a stuck cray pot and was in a wet suit.

“He managed to swim out from under the boat straight away, but the other two people were trapped.

“The boat washed in about 100 metres towards shore.

“One of the local cray boats came in to help but the flipped boat got stuck on the rocks.”

De Menech said the fire brigade and locals then pulled together to rescue the men.

“We got lots of ropes and ran a rope out to the boat from shore.

“We had about eight people around the hull of the boat trying to keep it steady against swells.”

She said a couple of divers could hear banging on the hull but could not see the men.

Then a local, Tony Lancaster put on his scuba gear and swam out to assist.

Sim said Lancaster risked his life to save the men.

Without his help, they probably would not have made it out alive.

De Menech said a torch was shone under the boat, and Lancaster located a man.

“He grabbed his hand and managed to pull the first guy out from underneath, through the hatch.”

He was taken back to shore.

The wrecked hull of the boat, minus cabin, recovered from the sea.

Sim, who was one of the people holding the boat steady, said the second man was eventually located by Lancaster at the back of the cabin in an air pocket.

“Between the boat capsizing and getting the second man out it was about 20 minutes.”

He said after that amount of time they had basically lost hope.

De Menech said “everyone was pretty brave” during the rescue.

She was ferrying gear, and keeping communications, between the rescue team at sea and those on shore.

She also helped transfer the patients back to safety.

Police and Life Flight’s Westpac rescue helicopter attended, as did Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics and the Martinborough Fire Brigade who assisted Ngawi firefighters.

The patients were taken to Wairarapa Hospital for a precautionary check-up.

De Menech said it was only the hull pulled from the ocean on Friday afternoon.

“The cabin and motor were ripped off and are still at sea.”

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