An off-duty Coastguard skipper and a retired doctor have recounted the harrowing moment they worked desperately to save a woman after she was pulled from the water at an Auckland beach.
A woman aged in her 40s was taken to Middlemore Hospital on Saturday afternoon in a serious condition after a jetski accident at Maraetai Beach.
Two of her rescuers, who have requested to remain anonymous, told the Herald they raced to the woman's aid after seeing an upturned jet ski in the water and a body lying face-down next to it.
"At the same time, two jet skis came racing off the beach out to it and a person dived into the water and by then I'd worked out the situation," said the Coastguard skipper.
"I went to my office and picked up the defib and ran down the beach, I got there just as they got to the beach and we dragged her out of the water."
The woman was blue and foaming from the mouth, and they could not find a pulse or any sign of breathing.
They gave CPR and used a defibrillator to try and resuscitate the woman.
"We assisted with chest compressions and breathing for her until police and fire arrived," said the Coastguard skipper.
The woman was still unconscious when emergency services arrived.
An ambulance, a critical care paramedic and a Westpac Rescue Helicopter rushed to unfolding beachside drama.
The retired doctor said the women regained consciousness after she was taken into the ambulance but that they remained concerned for her condition.
"It was a team effort, people went out there to assist her back to shore and then police and fire showed up with their equipment, and then the ambulance and even the helicopter showed up," she said.
The woman's rescuers stressed a need for people to learn water safety skills, first aid skills and the importance of sending for help early in a rescue situation.
They advised that people should always check the weather conditions before going out on the water and to have the correct safety gear for the activity they pursue.
"There were issues in the situation that if things have been done differently things might not have happened," said the Coastguard skipper.
While the woman had been wearing a buoyancy vest on the jet ski, they later learned from her grateful husband that she didn't know how to swim.
The 2021 Drowning Report released by Water Safety New Zealand said drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.
Despite multiple lockdowns, 74 kiwis drowned last year.
Twenty of those were in December alone which made the monthly toll the highest it's been since 1996.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Daniel Gerrard said the uptick in fatalities was "unprecedented".