Night rescue for more ill-prepared boaties


Two people are “incredibly lucky to be alive” after being caught out on Lake Wakatipu in an inflatable boat with only one life jacket.

Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black says the man and woman got into difficulties on the way to Pigeon Island on Friday night.

Police, Dart River Jet staff and a local helicopter firm searched for more than an hour, finding them in the chilly water at 7pm.

Black says the two owe their lives to the jet boat crew.

“When they found this pair, they were hyperthermic and could hardly speak.

“They are incredibly lucky to be alive.”

In December 2010, two Frenchmen, Raphael Soubrier, 21, and Yoann Firdion, 24, drowned in the lake while kayaking in rough conditions with unsuitable equipment.

Black says the two people on Friday intended to camp on Pigeon Island.

They set off in the inflatable boat, with one life jacket and two oars between them. One of the oars broke and it appeared the boat either took on water or capsized, he says.

They used a cellphone to call for police, and Black says after an hour searching in the dark the Dart River boat’s crew heard cries for help.

Black says the only thing the pair appeared to have done right was to take a cellphone with them so that they could call for help.

The inflatable boat and oars were not suited for rowing across the lake, they did not have lifejackets for each person on board, and setting off so late in the day was unwise, he adds.

The Police Media Centre in Wellington issued a press release about the incident reminding boaties to be mindful and focusing on the waste of police resources.

The unattributed release says a number of water rescues occur because people go out on to the water unprepared.

It says: “Not only can this be dangerous and put other people at risk, it also takes considerable police resources to rescue the troubled boaties, taking them away from helping the public and attending and solving crimes.”

The pair are being spoken to by police, it says.

“The weather was not favourable and police spent considerable time locating the pair and bringing them back to land.”

The release says police, Maritime NZ and local authorities can take enforcement action.

“Police can (and do) prosecute those who break the law and put others at risk.”

It reminds people to be properly prepared by checking the weather and water conditions and wearing life jackets.