The off-duty rescue of two teenage boys on Christmas Day has won a regional surf lifesaving award.
Each month, Surf Life Saving New Zealand selects a winning rescue from each region as well as an overall national winner for the title of BP Rescue of the Month. Lifeguards from Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service have won the Eastern Region BP Rescue of the Month award for December.
Twenty-one people were pulled from the dangerous surf in little more than two hours between Mount Maunganui and Omanu beach on Christmas Day.
Off duty lifeguard Alex Sefton (19) was among many other people enjoying the beach by Clyde Street, Mount Maunganui on Christmas Day when she noticed two teenage boys struggling to stay afloat in a very fast and dangerous rip.
After first dialling 111, she then instinctively ran straight into the water and swam out to them and was about three metres away when one of them went under the water.
She reached down under the water and returned the drowning teenager to the surface. A nearby surfer and body-boarder helped Alex get the two boys onto their boards. One of the patients had taken on a lot of water; he was pale and was struggling to talk or support himself.
Alex swam the boy back in, across the raging rip, towards the beach. She was joined by fellow off duty lifeguards Leigh Sefton and Quentin Cribb along with regional lifeguards Aidan Ward and Joshua Lee who all assisted with returning the two patients to shore.
Alex told the Bay of Plenty Times at the time ''getting back in was really, really hard, dragging him along, the current was strong''. Click here to read more about her story.
One of the teenagers was put on oxygen before the arriving ambulance staff took over and transported him to Tauranga Hospital.
In a statement this afternoon, Surf Life Saving New Zealand stated there was no doubt the incident would have ended in tragedy if Alex, with her experience and courage, hadn't been there to assist.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Chairman Geoff Hamilton said the extraordinary efforts shown by the Lifeguards was outstanding.
"Admiration of the skill and professionalism shown by those involved in the incident is testament to qualities valued by Surf Life Saving New Zealand and BP," he said.
The club received a $100 fuel voucher from BP to help with the financial costs of keeping communities safe in the water.