The Coastguard Northern Region Awards of Excellence were presented recently to groups of dedicated volunteers, to celebrate the extraordinary contributions that Coastguard volunteers make to the organisation.
Waiuku Coastguard was one of the groups who played a significant part in Rescue of the Year, which was a joint award for Coastguards from Papakura, Waiuku, Titirangi and Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol. The Awards are the pinnacle of a busy year of saving lives on the water.
Coastguard volunteers across the region, from Raglan across to Thames and right up to Houhora in the far North, dedicated 135,723 hours to helping 4,139 boaties home to safety.
With 100 per cent availability every day of the year, the levels of commitment from each and every volunteer are huge.
The Rescue of the Year Award involved several teams of volunteers for their work in saving a young girl from the cold Manukau Harbour in April this year. Around 5.05pm on Wednesday 20 April 2017, several Coastguard Units were paged to respond to an urgent call out for an overturned 12ft Starcraft which had been spotted by a passing vessel.
Coastguard Papakura were on the water by 5.30pm and it was quickly learned that there were two people missing from the boat—a father and his eight year old daughter.
With failing light Papakura Rescue 1 carried out a high speed search up the Papakura channel, but without spotting any of the targets. As the Papakura volunteers returned back down the channel at a slower pace, now joined by the Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol aircraft and rescue vessels from Coastguard Waiuku and Coastguard Titirangi, the sun had set. A light mist also cut visibility down to 50 metres.
At 7.30pm the Coastguard Papakura volunteers heard a shout for help coming out of the darkness—the eight year old girl, who was wearing a black t-shirt, had been found.
The team got her aboard, wrapped her in blankets and assessed her, as they coordinated with the Auckland Airport hovercraft to bring her to a waiting ambulance ashore.
The brave and resilient girl was able to tell the team that the boat overturned at around 15.30, which meant she had been treading water for at least four hours. The Papakura and Waiuku rescue vessels, along with the Air Patrol aircraft, continued the search for the father over the following days, before being stood down by Police.
“The speed at which all the units were able to flawlessly coordinate and find the girl in the trying conditions, and the professionalism with which they all got on with an emotionally charged and urgent search, meant the Rescue of the Year Award was well deserved,” said Ray Burge, Operations Manager, Coastguard Northern Region.