A normal afternoon swim off the coast of Cape Kidnappers dramatically changed for Doug Cushing.

He had been swimming offshore with his two sons, father and uncle.

The group was heading back in on the boat, when a massive slip of rock and dirt came crashing down the cliff face.

"Initially it was just shock," he said when asked about seeing the cliff come down.

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He said they sped up to get to a tour group who had been out visiting the gannets.

As he got closer he spotted a tractor.

"Your mind just starts ticking, where's the other tractor?"

"We could see people yelling at us."

Doug Cushing, left, was the first on the scene at the Clifton cliff collapse. He had been swimming offshore with his two sons, father and uncle. Photo / File
Doug Cushing, left, was the first on the scene at the Clifton cliff collapse. He had been swimming offshore with his two sons, father and uncle. Photo / File

He called emergency services.

He said the tractor from the tour was parked what looked like 20m away from where the massive pile of dirt and cliffside lay.

The tractor had been parked, and was on the Clifton side of the slip, with its passengers, who were walking, on the Cape Kidnappers side.

"The tour guides were really good, they helped everyone past the slip," he said.

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He said people kept their eyes on the hill as they ran over the slip, as dirt and debris continued to come off the cliff.

He thought he saw about 50 people making the dash across the slip.


During the event two people were injured, one critically, one moderately. They were transferred to Hawke's Bay Hospital.

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