Police unimpressed as dinghy drifts in rough sea

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Photo / File
Photo / File

Police are not impressed by the actions of two men at the centre of a rescue alert yesterday when their dinghy got into in trouble in rough sea at Anaura Bay on the East Coast.

Police called Gisborne's ECT rescue helicopter, with a rescue chopper from Taupo called as a back-up. The men managed to make it ashore while help was coming.

Initial reports suggested the dinghy was drifting out to sea and that a diver from the dinghy was ashore on Motuoroi Island at Anaura Bay.

The two men in difficulties were aged 40 and 41. Both are from Tolaga Bay.

The man in the dinghy was eventually blown ashore and the diver swam about 500 metres back to the mainland.

"Sea and wind conditions were quite horrendous," said Sergeant Greg Lexmond.

He co-ordinated the rescue effort.

Ministry for Primary Industries fisheries staff were at Anaura Bay at the time of the drama on a surveillance operation.

"They witnessed what was happening and raised the alarm," Sgt Lexmond said.

The fisheries officers said both men were diving, one with scuba gear and the other snorkelling.

The wind was coming from the south initially, then the direction changed to the south-east.

"That wind change caught them out," said fisheries officer Grant Dickson.

One of the men got into the dinghy and tried unsuccessfully to start it.

"He was being blown along the coast and away from his diving companion, so he tried to row back to him but was getting nowhere," Mr Dickson said.

Sergeant Lexmond said from the initial reports it was obvious that lives were at risk, so it was decided to mobilise all necessary resources.

The rescue helicopters were stood down when word came in that the two men had made their way safely to shore.

The two fisheries officers had borrowed a small runabout after they had raised the alarm and tried to reach the man in the dinghy.

"It was extremely choppy.

"We got about halfway over and started taking on too much water.

"We decided to turn back before we got into trouble ourselves," Mr Dickson said.

The man in the dinghy was blown 1.5km along the coast.

"He just managed to get ashore on a sand spit.

"He was really lucky that he ended up where he ended up, otherwise the dinghy would have hit rocks, then he would have gone out to sea," Mr Dickson said.

Sgt Lexmond said he was not impressed with the men's actions.

"People need to take into account the weather conditions and forecast, and be prepared with the right safety equipment when they do venture out.

"If the wind had been blowing offshore, who knows what the outcome could have been," he said.

The men should have made sure they had all the right safety gear on board, he said.

"No anchor, no flares, no lifejackets."

- The Gisborne Herald

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