Off-duty police officer and family rescue people caught in rip at dangerous Auckland beach

An off-duty constable and his family helped save the lives of three people at a beach on Auckland’s notoriously wild west coast.

Youth Aid Constable Shawn Wanden and his family were packing up at Karekare Beach two Sundays ago when his daughter Jessica spotted three people caught in a rip in the middle of the beach. The trio was rescued without incident.

However, just an hour later when Wanden’s wife Shalema returned to the beach, she spotted another three people caught in the same rip at the west coast beach.

She tried to signal to the father and his two sons, but noticed they were in trouble. Shalema then called for assistance and started swimming to them with rescue tubes.

Once she reached the trio, one person was floating head down in the water and was unconscious.

The off-duty police officer arrived on a boat and pulled the man from the water with the help of two other off-duty lifeguards.

Once they reached the shore, the man had stopped breathing and Wanden’s daughter started CPR. The man was revived and transported to Auckland City Hospital by helicopter.

At the time a St John spokesperson said two other people were treated for minor injuries and were left at Karekare Beach.

A Surf Life Saving New Zealand spokesperson said the incident occurred after the flags had been put away.

Once on-duty Sergeant Dean Henderson arrived, one of the teenagers was lost and in need of rescue nearby.

Knowing the area, Jessica volunteered to drive Henderson and Constable Hannah Atkinson to the area, which was in dense marsh.

The Eagle helicopter located the teenager and he was returned home to his father.

“The Wanden family played a major and important part in saving three lives on Sunday,” said Henderson.

“I love the beach and we just want people to be able to enjoy it safely. That’s why we do what we do,” Wanden said.

Northern Region Lifesaving operations manager James Lea said that weekend saw higher incident numbers than you would see in peak summer.

During that weekend, Lea said lifeguards did 52 rescues, assisted six people to safety, performed four major first-aids and searched for eight people.

He said the number of rescues was “unusual for a weekend in November”.

“It was a combination of thousands of people being at the beach because of the hot weather, along with decent swells, warm water temperatures and outgoing tides for most of the day.”

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