Teen lifeguard saves terrified kids from rip

By Kiri Gillespie, Sandra Conchie

1 comment
Teenage lifeguards Logan Russell, 15, and Kayla Baker, 15, saved three children in separate rescues. Photo/George Novak
Teenage lifeguards Logan Russell, 15, and Kayla Baker, 15, saved three children in separate rescues. Photo/George Novak

A 15-year-old lifeguard saved the lives of two terrified young children who were sucked out to sea by a strong rip on Sunday.

Pukehina lifeguard Kayla Baker was watching over the red and yellow flags at the beach when she spotted a young boy and girl playing in waves.

Kayla said the children, aged about 9 and 10, were not strong swimmers and had become stuck in a flash rip.

"As soon as they got into the water they kept going under waves and kept going further and further. Then it was all go," Kayla said.

"Their little sister started screaming but we were already watching them. They were really frightened. They were terrified. None of them knew how to swim properly."

Kayla dashed out to sea and swam after the children. By the time she reach them, the boy was nearly gone, she said.

"He was very much underwater by the time I got there. If it wasn't for his boogie board he would not have made it."

Kayla helped calm the children down and strapped them to her rescue tube before bringing them back to shore, when their mother was waiting.

"Their mum was relieved. She was upset but very grateful."

Kayla Baker, 15, and mum Leanne Lester. Photo/George Novak
Kayla Baker, 15, and mum Leanne Lester. Photo/George Novak

Kayla's mother Leanne Lester, who also works as a lifeguard at the club, said the children were sucked out "before they realised it".

"They got into trouble and panicked," she said.

"It was quite horrendous. They were quite upset. So was their mum when she realised what was happening."

The family were visiting from out of town and the mother had said that they did not go swimming at the beach often, Ms Lester said.

"We are just lucky we had guards down there. It all happened very quickly. Sometimes you just get these flash rips and they get sucked out."

That was why it was important anyone swimming at a beach knew what to do if they got caught in a rip, Ms Lester said.

Ms Lester said she was incredibly proud of her daughter.

"The love that she has of the surf, which she has been brought up on, but the love that she has for lifesaving to see her do something and do it so well with such a great outcome is really special."

Fellow 15-year-old Pukehina lifeguard Logan Russell also rescued a child, believed to be about 11, that day.

Logan Russell, 15 and Kayla Baker, 15. Photo/George Novak
Logan Russell, 15 and Kayla Baker, 15. Photo/George Novak

Ms Lester said conditions were choppy but the water had been warm and there were still plenty of people swimming.

The dramatic rescue was one of a series of rescues throughout the Bay over the long weekend.

At Mount Maunganui, a man was taken to Tauranga Hospital after also getting caught in a rip on Sunday.

Senior Mount Maunganui lifeguard Kent Jarman said the middle-aged man was rescued by two lifeguards about 2.30pm after getting into difficulty about 100m out from Cutter's Cove.

"The swimmer was in quite a bit of distress once the lifeguards got him back to shore, and he was taken to Tauranga Hospital to be checked out after taking in quite a bit of sea water.

"We also rescued two more men in their 40s further down at Tay St in an area which borders the Omanu Surf Patrol area, including a boogie boarder," he said.

Mr Jarman said the two men did not need medical treatment, but if the lifeguards had not been there it could have been quite a different story.

"We also undertook lots of preventative actions, and were constantly having to move people along or away from areas where there were big holes or rips to keep them out of danger."

Mr Jarman said all along the Marine Parade area was quite a difficult place to swim as a number of big holes had opened up after the recent large swells created by tropical cyclone Victor.

"When the big surf drops away, as it has, lots of sand gets shifted around and it carves out lots of holes and create rips."

Papamoa Surf Lifesaving Club captain Shaun Smith said it was fortunate they had not had to rescue anyone and most people seemed to be responsible when swimming in the area.

"For us, people are more nervous when we've got big surf like we've had over the past few weeks.

"That's probably the biggest message for us to get out there right now, is swim between the flags. And if there aren't any flags up and there's no lifeguards around, there's usually a good reason why."

Dangerous waters
A rip is a strong current of water running out to sea. Rip currents can be hard to identify, look for these features:

* Discoloured or murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom

* A smoother surface with much smaller waves, with waves breaking on either side

* Debris floating out to sea

* A rippled look, when the water around is generally calm.

If you get caught in a rip:

* Don't panic

* Don't try to swim against the rip back to shore

* Let the rip carry you out until the current subsides

* Then swim parallel to the beach for 30-40m before swimming back to shore

* If you get tired or become frightened, stay calm, raise your arm, call for help and wait for assistance.

- watersafety.co.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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