Woolacombe lifeguard wins New Zealand rescue award

An RNLI lifeguard from North Devon was part of a team of eight professional and volunteer lifeguards who awarded awarded Surf Life Saving New Zealand's Rescue of the Month for a co-ordinated rescue off Pauanui beach in the North Island's Bay of Plenty. S

An RNLI lifeguard from North Devon was part of a team of eight professional and volunteer lifeguards who awarded awarded Surf Life Saving New Zealand's Rescue of the Month for a co-ordinated rescue off Pauanui beach in the North Island's Bay of Plenty.Senior RNLI lifeguard Luke Yabsley, aged 23, who is originally from Newton Abbot, patrols Woolacombe beach during the UK summer. This winter, he worked in New Zealand's North Island as part of the RNLI's International Lifeguard Exchange Programme. Luke was patrolling Pauanui beach, a popular holiday resort, on the day of the rescue. Luke said: "I was at the lifeguard tower completing my normal observations of the beach and watching the swimmers, when we saw this boat heading towards the bar. Straight away I had a horrible feeling that something was going to go wrong as the surf conditions were really rough."Luke and fellow lifeguard Spencer Raymond watched as the 18ft vessel attempting to cross the sand bar was struck by a wave and overturned in the surf. Together Luke and Spencer immediately launched the inshore rescue boat and reached the casualties, a family of five including a 54-year old grandfather, two parents and two children aged two and six. They picked up the children first and threw a rescue tube to the third casualty. After dropping the children back on the shore with fellow lifeguards Tyler Bracken and Becky Pennell, the IRB returned to bring the three remaining casualties to shore.On the shore, lifeguards Jacinta Gibbons-Hurunui and Martine Smith in the tower requested an ambulance and assistance from the Rescue Helicopter, while lifeguards Matt Williams and Jake Smith arrived on the scene with oxygen kits and a defibrillator. Matt and Jake immediately began oxygen therapy, treating the Grandfather for severe exhaustion, shock and also secondary drowning as he had swallowed a lot of salt water. After a further assessment Luke discovered the man had suffered a head injury and checked for concussion before placing him on a stretcher for transport. The two parents and oldest child where in a stable condition so were kept warm and monitored by other lifeguards while the youngest child was treated as she had gone under water a number of times. While lifeguards cleared a safe helicopter-landing zone, Matt, Luke and Spencer prepared the grandfather to be airlifted and aided the crewmen in loading him into the helicopter, which airlifted him to hospital. Surf Life Saving New Zealand praised the lifeguards actions, it was viewed by the panel of judges that without their prompt response and care, this would have no doubt been a tragic event.Luke is now back in the UK and preparing to begin patrols with the RNLI on Woolacombe beach over Easter.He said: "When I heard that we had won Rescue of the Month, it was very strange as I felt like it was just what we are there to do and didn't think much of it, but I did then realised that it's a fairly big deal within New Zealand Surf Lifesaving so I was happy for the team that we got the award.


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