A mother has praised emergency services after her 4-year-old son was burned by thermal steam during a boating trip near Rotorua yesterday.
The boy suffered burns to the feet when he stepped on a steam vent while the boat was parked at Hot Water Beach on Lake Tarawera in the early afternoon.
The boat that the boy, his mother and two other adults were travelling on then broke down as the group rushed from the beach to get help for the youngster.
The boat was found drifting towards cliffs by the coastguard and the BayTrust rescue helicopter a short time later, and a police officer dived from the helicopter into the lake to reach the distressed boy.
As he got on board, a coastguard boat arrived and took the family to shore. The 4-year-old and his mother were then flown by the rescue helicopter to Rotorua Hospital, where the boy was treated and discharged.
His injuries were initially thought to be serious, but were later assessed as minor, although he has been asked to return to the hospital to check the wounds today.
The mother, who did not want her son or herself identified, last night praised those involved in the rescue, saying they had been "fantastic".
"The staff in the accident and emergency [department at the hospital] were brilliant too. I can't fault them," she told the Herald.
She said one of her son's feet was worse than the other, but the injuries on neither were serious.
"They're blistered and they're bandaged and he's got pain relief, so he's fine."
The woman said the boat's motor had broken down soon after the group left shore and then the starter cord on the auxiliary motor had snapped.
"We couldn't have had worse luck," she said.
The adults on the boat then put out a distress signal, which was picked up by the Rotorua Lakes Volunteer Coastguard and the rescue helicopter at 12.50pm.
The emergency crews had trouble communicating with the boat because the radio signal was weak near the cliffs, but they spotted the boat about 20 minutes after the distress call went out.
Hot Water Beach is signposted with warnings about the hot thermal water, but Detective Sergeant John Wilson said it was a "common occurrence" for people to get scalded. "It's quite easy to get burned."
He said the boy was distressed at the time the police officer dived from the helicopter to reach him and it was initially thought the 4-year-old might have to be flown to Waikato Hospital.
The officer who jumped into the water swam about 50m to reach the boat, and the boy's mother said she was full of admiration for him diving in in his uniform. "He took a dip in a very cold lake."
Both she and her son had bare feet when he stepped on the vent while walking on the beach, which she said was a mistake in hindsight. "I guess shoes should be worn."