The Motueka River with the western ranges in the background.

Alden Williams

The Motueka River with the western ranges in the background.

A teenage girl pinned against a rock in a river rapid and another woman swept downstream had to be saved from the water by search and rescue.

The pair were part of a Nelson family who got into trouble while kayaking in the Motueka River near Ngatimoti on Sunday afternoon.

Police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Malcolm York said it was the first time the four people had been on the river and they were not prepared for the grade two rapids they encountered.

As they entered rapids, two got into difficulty. A woman capsized and was swept down the rapid head first and a teenage girl became pinned against a rock at the top of the rapid.

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It was an “incredibly dangerous situation to be in,” York said. 

The girl’s father managed to get to her and the pair stayed on the rock and called for help, which York said was the right thing to do. 

Police and Fire and Emergency staff were stationed below the rapid where they could assist with throw lines if the pair were swept off the rock.

Members of the Tasman Land Search and Rescue river team were sent with a jet boat to the scene, where the pair were given helmets and walked upstream to the jet boat where they were then taken back to shore.

The pair were uninjured and were assessed by St John staff before returning home.

The other two family members were able to get themselves back to shore safely. 

Nelson Police search and rescue Sergeant Malcolm York said the two women were in an "incredibly dangerous situation". File photo.

MARION VAN DIJK

Nelson Police search and rescue Sergeant Malcolm York said the two women were in an “incredibly dangerous situation”. File photo.

York said there were important lessons learnt by the group who were kayaking a river they had never been on before.

“Their kayaks were plastic ride on kayaks that are only suitable for calm seas or lakes.

“They also had no helmets to protect their heads from striking objects in the water.”

York said it was important people knew their limitations and stayed within them.

“To run a river with rapids you need to have the right equipment and know how to use it correctly. You need to be trained how to read the river and how to pick the safest line to travel down.

“Even on a grade two river, like the Motueka, there are so many hazards for the untrained.”

The pair were not prepared for the grade two rapids they encountered.

Christian Mueringer 123RF

The pair were not prepared for the grade two rapids they encountered.

York said “too many lives” had been lost on the Motueka River over the years.

New Zealand Kayak School, NZOIA assessor, Tasman White Water Rescue Team member Mick Hopkinson said river running was a complex skill that required kayak training, rescue training, good equipment, local knowledge and a good level of New Zealand bush skills including navigation and first aid, 

“If you really want to be a river runner either join a kayak club or go with skilled, experienced friends who can look you after when things don’t go to plan.

“Sit upon kayaks are designed for family fun on easy, safe beaches which are sandy and shallow with an incoming tide and an onshore breeze.”

He said they were not designed for navigating class two rapids with boulder gardens. 

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