Person of the Month: Dean Oswald

By Abigail Hartevelt

The mother of one of the boys rescued by Whakatane police officer and former Bay of Plenty Steamer Constable Dean Oswald says she can't thank him enough for what he did.

The Auckland woman, who did not want to be named, said her 11-year-old son may not be alive today had it not been for Mr Oswald's heroic actions.

Mr Oswald is today named The Daily Post Person of the Month for January for his efforts in rescuing three swimmers stuck in a rip at Ohope.

Mr Oswald was on duty as part of an Ohope summer patrol on January 2. Just before 8pm, he and his two colleagues were about to finish work when they were told about three people stuck in a rip opposite the Ohope Golf Club. As there was no easy beach access nearby, Mr Oswald got hold of a quad bike and raced along the beach.

"I headed towards the Ohiwa Harbour mouth. It must have been about 500m to 1km when I came across an upset man and an aunty who were pointing and saying 'my boys, my boys'. I jumped on top of the bike and could see a hand up in the water so I stripped down to my jocks and jumped in."

Mr Oswald said the people on the beach had called other family members and two relatives came down to the beach with lifejackets. They followed Mr Oswald into the surf.

"The closest kid was about 40m out and it was quite a rough sea. At that point, I'd only seen the two kids and didn't realise their uncle was in the water as well. The three of us headed into the water, we got to the first kid, gave him a life jacket and strapped him in it. The other two were behind me and got to the other boy. The kid I was with kept saying 'my uncle, my uncle', that's when I realised there was a man out there."

Mr Oswald managed to get the man back to the beach.

A 36-year-old Hastings man, who now lives in Whakatane, the 11-year-old and a 13-year-old boy were admitted to Whakatane Hospital and later discharged.

The mother of the 11-year-old boy said Mr Oswald went "above and beyond the call of duty" and the family kept a newspaper clipping of Mr Oswald's rescue efforts on their fridge to remind them how lucky the family was.

The woman said Mr Oswald deserved the recognition.

Mr Oswald said he had received texts and emails and strangers approached him on the street to shake his hand, which he said had been embarrassing.

Being named The Daily Post Person of the Month was "pretty cool" but he was not looking forward to the "ribbing" he would get from his colleagues.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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