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Lifeguards recognised for efforts in dive tragedy

From left: Riversdale Surf Life Saving Club members Liam Taylor, Rocco Thompson, and club captain Mike Taylor were recognised for assisting in the search for Darren and Josh Southon who went missing while diving in Mataikona in January. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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The three lifeguards involved in the search for a father and son who died after diving off the coast of Mataikona in January, were recognised for their efforts at the Capital Coast Awards of Excellence ceremony on Saturday.

Riversdale Surf Life Saving Club captain Mike Taylor, who helped with the search for Darren Southon, 48, and his 11-year-old son Josh, said he was very humbled to be presented with the Rescue Recognition award.

The pair were reported missing while paua diving off the coast and their bodies were later found by the police dive squad.

Mike said it was an especially difficult task, but he was very proud of young members Liam Taylor, 19, and Rocco Thompson, 17, who also responded.

“When we were asked to assist, they just leapt into gear in a very professional manner and just did their jobs.

“It was also good to highlight the interaction between search and rescue, police, and surf lifesaving.”

Liam said it was “an honour” to be able to help with the search.

“It’s made the community, the whanau, and us as lifeguards stronger.

“It’s taught us about what we can do working together around water safety.”

He said he was especially proud of Thompson.

“It’s very hard to get thrown in like that … I had full faith in him and knew that we could get through some tough times together.”

The awards ceremony was an opportunity to acknowledge the work of volunteers at surf lifesaving clubs across the lower North Island.

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