Wave safety call after near-drownings

Whitewater kayak park by the Camp Hill Road bridge - Hawea River Photo: Will Jackways willjackways.blogspot.co.nz

From Wanaka Sun (page 10)  13 - 19 April 2017

Wave safety call after near-drownings | Wanaka Sun

A surfer who nearly drowned under the Hawea River Bridge earlier this month has joined with other concerned parties to get a rescue system put in place at the whitewater kayak park by the Camp Hill Road bridge.

Milu Multhaup had a lucky escape when he became trapped under the water on one side of a bridge pylon with his board, still tied to his leg, on the other side.

He has since got together with the kayakers who set him free to discuss safety measures at the area known as the river wave.

“I have been to the river wave many times and never felt too worried or scared,” Milu said.

“I was aware of the entrapment danger on the bridge pylons, but am now very aware of just how dangerous they are. It has already happened before and it’s only a matter of time until someone else gets caught around one of them again.”

Commercial white water kayak guide Ben Yates, who was among those at the wave who helped to rescue Milu, said that wheels were rolling and all concerned parties were taking a “serious look” at mitigating the hazards.

“Until then you have a responsibility to take all practicable steps to ensure your own safety and others you are with. Do not underestimate the force of the water. It has caused so many unnecessary deaths,” Ben said.

He added that helmets and personal flotation devices were considered to be the best practice in the water as well as velcro leash attachments that could be torn off easily if needed.

Ben has appealed to anyone who has experienced an incident or a near-miss situation on the water, including the willow trees downstream of the river, to get in touch with Queenstown Lakes District Harbour Master Marty Black.

“I managed to get the boulder under the bridge removed and with other voices we can get the trees cleared and a rescue ladder in. We can prevent an avoidable death,” Ben said.

Cover image: Hawea Whitewater Park  beside the Camp Hill Road bridge, Hawea River Photo: Will Jackways 

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