Life saved: Auckland fisherman plucked from surf in dramatic rescue by Eagle helicopter crew, off-duty officer

The quick actions of an off-duty police officer out for a surf and an Eagle helicopter crewman saved a man’s life when he was swept off rocks at a wild west coast beach out of Auckland.

Emergency services were called after a man was washed off the rocks at O’Neill’s Bay north of Bethells Beach on October 8.

The man wasn’t wearing a lifejacket and although his friend had thrown him a life ring and he was still afloat, he was being knocked around in the rough waters and was tiring quickly.

Eagle helicopter crew Senior Constable Mark Lendrum, Constable Jason Farrell and their pilot were quickly on the scene and spotted the man caught in a rip.

The crew then set about trying to rescue the man.

“The Eagle-eyed pilot spotted the man in the ring within a narrow channel between Kauwahaia Island and the headland,” Sergeant Mark Jamieson recalled.

“The man appeared very distressed and was swallowing water.

“He was getting swamped by the waves and would go in slightly when the waves crashed on him and then he would be taken back out with the rip.”

Once they landed on the beach, Lendry grabbed the rescue tube and flippers and headed out.

As he made his way around the rocks on the headland, he noticed the man had been pushed further out to sea and was now covered in foam and getting buffeted by the waves.

When the surf and rocks prevented Lendrum getting any further on land, he decided to swim out to him.

“He was in immediate danger and I could not delay the rescue,” he explained.

“When he reached him, the man was exhausted, very pale, had foam coming from his mouth and could not speak.”

Lendrum towed the stricken man back to shore in the life ring, helped by a surfer-who turned out to be an off-duty police officer.

The officer had been on the beach when he saw the Eagle land, realised something was wrong and paddled out to assist.

A still from the Eagle cam footage shows the man floating in the sea and the officer trying to reach him.

When they got the fisherman to shore, he was in a serious condition and was transported to nearby Bethells Beach where lifeguards helped with his first aid treatment.

“He was later transported to hospital by Westpac and is very lucky to be alive,” Jamieson said.

District Operations Manager Inspector Beth Houliston congratulated the team for “another exceptionally brave and highly skilled rescue”.

“Having the ability to be not only be the first responders to quickly attend the scene, but also having the skills and courage to deploy no doubt saved this man’s life,” she said.

“Great teamwork across the Air Support Unit crew and partner agencies.”

Police said the dramatic rescue was a reminder of the importance of water safety.

Since alert levels have changed in the Auckland there have been a concerning number of reports of kayakers or swimmers in trouble and fishermen being washed off rocks.

“Sadly, in some of these cases, people have lost their lives,”Sergeant Garry Larsen said.

“So we’re really urging you to take extra care when you’re out on the water.”

This includes paying attention to the following water safety guidelines and having a plan for if things go wrong.

Key tips for water safety

• Always wear your lifejacket.

• Check the weather conditions.

• Know whether the tide is coming in or going out.

• Make sure someone on shore knows where you are and can raise the alarm if you get into trouble.

• If you’re boating, have two forms of communication with you – at least one of which should be waterproof.

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