Rescued boaties ignored guard's warnings

By Imran Ali

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Brothers Ben and Adam McKernan kneeboarding at Ruakaka Beach on the last day of patrols at Northland's surf beaches yesterday. Photo / Tania Whyte
Brothers Ben and Adam McKernan kneeboarding at Ruakaka Beach on the last day of patrols at Northland's surf beaches yesterday. Photo / Tania Whyte

Seven boaties on planned fishing trips ignored repeated warnings about dangerous sea conditions in Northland waters over the long weekend and had to be rescued by lifeguards.

A further three boats were involved in near misses as swells between 1.5-2m wreaked havoc for seagoers, mostly Aucklanders who headed up north for fishing expeditions.

Among those who were rescued was a 7-year-old girl after a fibreglass boat she and two adults were in flipped over about 200m offshore at Mangawhai Heads just before midday on Saturday. They were lucky that it was the last weekend for lifeguards to patrol Northland's surf beaches.

Mangawhai Heads surf lifesaving club captain Patria Harris said the 5m boat's outboard engine stalled before a huge wave swamped them. She said two lifeguards rescued the child and a female before another two went in a rescue boat and picked up a male who had jumped in the water.

Ms Harris said the fishing boat rolled just after the man was rescued. The rescued were from Auckland and their boat was later rolled back over before being towed to shore.

In another incident, an aluminium boat with three males and a female rolled over at the channel to the Mangawhai harbour entrance.

Ms Harris said the occupants got into trouble while trying to avoid a wave but were caught out. Three lifeguards on surfboards picked up two adults and a female before a surfer got to the other male who had the anchor rope tangled around him. He was hauled on to a surfboard before lifeguards pulled him into a rescue boat. One person had a sprained foot while two took quite a bit of water but none required hospital treatment. They were also from Auckland.

Ms Harris said a harbourmaster was at the boat ramp at the estuary yesterday, warning boaties against going out fishing because of high swells.

"We've had three boats in near misses ... caught sideways or rolled but were lucky to turn around. The harbourmaster and Coastguard have been issuing warnings to people but they still take to the waters," she said.

"They just need to be aware of the conditions before going out and if they are told not to go, then they shouldn't go."

She said despite warnings, there was about 15 fishing boats on the water off Mangawhai Heads yesterday.

Lifeguards stopped beach patrols for the season yesterday and start again during Labour weekend in October.

Elsewhere around Northland beaches, a surfer in his 50s dislocated his shoulder after he fell off his surfboard off Ocean Beach on Sunday morning. Another surfer helped bring him to shore where he was attended to by St John paramedics and taken to the Whangarei Hospital. Andrew Wright, patrol captain at Ruakaka Surf Lifesaving Patrol, said Easter Weekend had been incident-free at Ruakaka Beach.

"It's been very good. The beach has been packed. We had about 300 to 400 [on Sunday] and thousands over the entire weekend."

- Northern Advocate

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