Man swept out to sea

By Sandra Conchie


A man was swept out to sea by the tide after an afternoon drinking session at a Tauranga park.

Eyewitnesses told the Bay of Plenty Times that if it had not been for the quick actions of a 20-year-old woman who swam out to rescue the man he would have drowned.

The 50-year-old Tauranga man was taken to Tauranga Hospital and was today in a stable condition after getting caught in the channel near Fergusson Park in Matua about 2pm yesterday.

Senior Sergeant Carl Purcell confirmed the man had been drinking alcohol before going into the water.

"He was breathing but was taken by ambulance to Tauranga Hospital and was described as being in a serious condition," he said.

An off-duty female ambulance officer, who spoke on the condition she was not named, told the Bay of Plenty Times the man's rescuer was an "absolute hero, and deserves a medal". It is understood the rescuer was a swimming instructor.

The officer's husband, who also swam out and helped drag the man the last 50m-100m, said there was no way the man could have made it to shore by himself.

"His legs had gone and he had taken on a lot of water. He was absolutely spent and was an absolute dead weight. Without doubt he would have drowned if this lady had not gone in to save him."

The ambulance officer, who helped the man before the ambulance arrived, said the victim told his rescuer he could not swim and kept saying to her: "You have saved my life."<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"He said it about 10 times," she said.

The man's partner and a distraught teenage girl had watched helplessly, she said.

The rescuer had left the park soon after the ambulance took the man to hospital and she was unable to be contacted last night. Mr Purcell said the man had been drinking alcohol with friends at the park for some time.

"He and one of his friends decided to go out into the water to look for shellfish and it was then he got into difficulties." Mr Purcell said it was concerning the man had been drinking before entering the water and police wanted to draw to the public's attention that "alcohol and water activities do not mix".

Tauranga Hospital spokeswoman Suzanne Round said the man was in a stable condition but she had no other information.

The incident is just one of a number of near-misses and drownings in the Bay this summer.

On January 14 Aucklander Warren Ronald Paul, 51, drowned after he had gone fishing with a friend in the estuary between Rotary Park, Maungatapu and Tye Park, Welcome Bay.

It was only the quick actions of two strangers which saved his 49-year-old friend from Tauranga who was also taken to Tauranga Hospital in a serious condition.

On January 11, two teenagers nearly drowned after they were caught in rips, the first off Tay St and another while swimming outside the Omanu Surf Club and were treated at Tauranga Hospital.

The day before, former Waihi Beach man Michael Webster, 30, drowned while fishing off rocks adjacent to Homunga Bay, north of Waihi.

Two local children are lucky to be alive after being pulled from the water in a dramatic rescue off Papamoa beach on January 7 after being caught in a rip.

On the evening of January 2 Aucklander Alesana Seneka, 45, drowned at Papamoa Beach after going to retrieve some cray pots that had been placed beyond the breakers.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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