Floral tributes laid by locals overlook a beach on Auckland’s North Shore following a person’s death in a water-related incident yesterday.
But residents are perplexed at how the group came to grief at what is generally considered a tranquil and calm beach enjoyed by families.
One person died and another was taken to hospital after the tragedy at Rothesay Bay after 5pm on Saturday.
Today, some locals have paid their tributes, laying flowers on a grass bank which overlooks the beach.
One of those laying flowers said she didn’t know the individuals involved, but felt she “had to do something” in their memory.
“I see some people have done the same thing, which shows how close the community is.
She said Rothesay Bay is widely known for being fairly quiet and calm, so she wasn’t sure how the individuals got into trouble.
“When you hear about things like this, it’s just awful,” she said.
Nearby residents shared the same confusion at how the group came to grief on the tranquil beach, saying it was a shock to the community.
One said the group may have been wearing unsuitable clothes for swimming.
Hato Hone St John responded to the incident yesterday with three ambulances, one rapid response unit and one operations manager.
“One person was taken to North Shore Hospital in a moderate condition, while three others suffered minor injuries on site,” they said.
Police said their thoughts were with the family of the person who died. The death would be referred to the coroner.
Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) chief executive Daniel Gerrard said the recent tragic incident at Rothesay Bay is a heart-wrenching reminder of the unpredictable nature of water.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by this loss.
Gerrard said as we mourn this loss, we must collectively reinforce our commitment to water safety.
“This tragedy is a painful reminder of the importance of vigilance and preparedness in and around water. We encourage everyone to take water safety seriously to protect themselves and their loved ones,” he said.
Last month, WSNZ reported 2023 was shaping up to be the most devastating year for drowning fatalities this century, with predictive modelling anticipating up to 103 lives lost by the end of the year.
The WSNZ predictive modelling now forecasts fewer drowning fatalities than initially expected.
“The number has decreased to 95, still a significant number, but it shows progress. This reduction hopefully reflects that people are having a think about their behaviour.
“This along with the collective effort and increased awareness of water safety messages in our communities might be getting through. It’s a testament to the importance of every individual’s role in preventing such tragedies. We must remain vigilant and committed to further reducing these numbers,” Gerrard said.
In 2022, craft-related incidents were the leading cause of drownings, with 29 fatalities, while swimming accounted for 19 deaths.
In January, Auckland’s North Shore had a spate of water-related deaths, including three in 24 hours.
A swimmer at Narrow Neck Beach helped to pull an unconscious woman to shore in a desperate bid to save her life on January 20, but was unsuccessful.
Less than an hour later, a second person died in a water-related accident further north at Big Manly Beach, on the Whangaparāoa Peninsula.
“The ongoing disproportionate impact on Māori and Pasifika communities remains a pressing concern, especially in activities like swimming, boating and underwater activities such as kai gathering,” WSNZ said.
As of 7pm last night, the provisional drowning total for the year to date is 80, the same number as this time last year.
There were 94 drownings in 2022.
“It’s crucial for every New Zealander to treat the water with the utmost respect. We all bear collective responsibility to ensure the safety of our loved ones,” said WSNZ.
To address the ongoing concern of drownings, WSNZ emphasise the following water safety messages:
- Always swim at a patrolled beach (check Safeswim website) and swim between the red and yellow flags.
- If you are with little New Zealanders please make sure they are actively supervised and kept within arm’s reach.
- If fishing off rocks always know the conditions and wear a lifejacket and appropriate footwear.
Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.