Wear life jackets and check that your boat or other craft is fit for the water conditions - that's the plea from Constable Tom McBride, recipient of a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for his bravery in saving a young man from drowning off the Wellington Coast.
Murupara-based Constable McBride was presented with his medal last night by Wellington's Deputy Mayor Justin Lester at the council's Safety in the City Awards ceremony.
The officer was working in Wellington in October last year when a concerned member of the public alerted police to five young men heading out in small inflatable boats to Taputeranga Island, about 500m off the Island Bay coast.
None of the young men had life jackets, and they were using their hands, one set of oars and a hubcap to paddle through the cold choppy water towards the island.
Two of the inflatables capsized plunging their occupants into the water.
Four of the men managed to reach the island but their friend was struggling in the water, and was in danger of succumbing to the cold and the outgoing tide.
Constable McBride was one of the first police officers to arrive at the beach.
Although the Police Maritime Unit and Westpac's Rescue Helicopter were on their way, time was of the essence so Constable McBride shed his uniform and used his surf life saving expertise and Police National Dive Squad skills to plough his way more than 300m through the swell and grab hold of the young man.
"The conditions weren't great. The closer I got to the young guy I could see he was going under and put in a burst to grab him in time.
"I flipped him on his back, reassured him and towed him back to the shore."
Although honoured by the Royal Humane Society recognition, Constable McBride is just pleased that a preventable drowning was averted.
"Water safety is so important and some simple common sense checks can prevent needless tragedies. Keep the small inflatable toy boats for the pool. They're not designed for the sea.
"Always wear a life jacket when you're boating, jet skiing or using other craft on the water, make sure your equipment is safe and working and check the water and weather conditions before you set out."