Heroic cousins save man from rip

By Amy McGillivray

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A 16-year-old boy remains in hospital after nearly drowning at Papamoa Beach while 12-year-old cousins are being hailed as heroes for saving a man from a rip in Bowentown.

Papamoa lifeguards rushed to the aid of the teenage boy who collapsed by the roadside after coming out of the water.

Patrol captain Shaun Smith said the boy was in a serious condition when lifeguards found him but he did not know what the boy had been doing down at the beach.

"The boys and girls did a really good job down there and stabilised him and he went into hospital and he was responding well," he said.

The lifeguards fitted the boy with a bag mask, made sure his airways were clear, and checked his breathing and pulse until St John arrived, he said. Last night he remained in in Tauranga Hospital in a stable condition in the high dependency unit.

Meanwhile, cousins Will White and Sergio Schuler didn't think twice about putting themselves in danger when they jumped in a rip to save a drowning man's life at Bowentown, near Waihi Beach.

The boys were swimming about 2pm on Saturday when they saw the man struggling to stay afloat in a rip about 100m offshore.

The large Asian man tried grabbing on to the boys when they reached him but the pair kept their cool and began to swim him back in against the rip, Will said. "He was grabbing us trying to stay afloat. He was saying help, just all the time. We just kept our distance a bit and tried to encourage him to swim," the Waihi junior surf club member said.

"We pulled him sometimes and he followed us sometimes. We were just encouraging him. He would get hit by waves and go under and we had to get him up."

Sergio swam ahead to raise the alarm before heading back out to help his cousin bring the man ashore. Once onshore in the recovery position, the man began vomiting, went into shock, and lost consciousness.

Sergio's mum, Vivian Schuler, called an ambulance and attended to the man until help arrived.

"No one else even realised [what was happening]. Tragedy can unfold so fast in dangerous situations. For me it happened so fast but the guys had it under control. Lucky they are level-headed boys," Mrs Schuler said.

Waihi St John paramedic Pauline Davison said the rescuers did everything right. "They had done an exceptional job. They had put him in the recovery position."

The man was treated at Tauranga Hospital and discharged.

He sent Mrs Schuler a text message to say thank you and arrange to meet his young rescuers in person. "He was very grateful for the boys' heroic actions," she said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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