Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Police search and rescue heroes honoured

Police Search and Rescue (SAR) squads have been recognised at the annual New Zealand Search and Rescue Awards at the Grand Hall in Parliament in Wellington.

The awards were presented on Tuesday night by Associate Minister for Transport, Kiri Allan.

• The Northland Police SAR Squad and the Police National Dive Squad were awarded the Gold Award – Operational for the rescue of 10 people from the vessel Enchanter near North Cape/Otou between 20-21 March 2022.

Detective Constable Ben Pye – collecting the Certificate of Achievement on behalf of the Police National Dive Squad for the search for a missing tramper near Milford Sound/Piopiotahi between 27-31 March 2022.

• Police National Dive Squad and Southern District Police were awarded Certificates of Achievement for their role in the search for a missing tramper near Milford Sound/Piopiotahi between 27-31 March 2022.

Sergeant Tod Hollebon collecting the Certificate of Achievement on behalf of Southern District Police for the search for a missing tramper near Milford Sound/Piopiotahi between 27-31 March 2022.
Representatives from Dunedin LandSAR, Fiordland LandSAR, Wakatipu LandSAR, Wanaka LandSAR Canyon/Swiftwater Team, Paul Rogers, Southern District Police, Police National Dive Squad, Southland AREC, Action Helicopters, Southern Lakes Helicopters, and Milford Sound Volunteer Fire Brigade were recognised for their exceptional response to a missing tramper near Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

• Waikato District Police were also awarded for the rescue of three adults and two children from the Tairua Harbour bar on 5 January 2022.

Two Certificates of Achievement – Support were awarded to Senior Constable Peter Cunningham and Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson. The certificates recognised their exceptional service and commitment to search and rescue operations in the Waiparapara and Bay of Plenty SAR regions, respectively.

Senior Constable Peter Cunningham was awarded a Certificate of Achievement – Support, for service and commitment to search and rescue.

“Our Police SAR experts work with networks of volunteers and specialist organizations to reunite the lost, missing, or injured with their loved ones,” says Inspector Craig Rendel, Manager Operations and Emergency Management.

“These awards are a testament to the dedication and expertise of our teams who work to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in need. Every team member and individual who was acknowledged at last night’s awards should feel incredibly proud of the recognition they have received.”

Representatives from Northern Rescue Helicopters, Northland Police SAR Squad, Police National Dive Squad, Maritime NZ Rescue Coordination Centre, the crews of Florence Nightingale and Pacific Invader, and Kobe O’Neill collecting The Gold Award – Operational for the Enchanter rescue.

The Enchanter rescue was one of the operations recognised with the Gold Award – Operational.

This rescue involved an extensive 46-hour search and rescue operation following a distress call from the charter fishing vessel Enchanter, which had capsized near North Cape Otou with 10 men on board.

“I knew there was an issue straight away with the weather front that was crossing Northland. The weather was so bad that the closest vessels wouldn’t leave harbour. The rescue helicopters coming out of Auckland were delayed for a couple of hours because of the weather.”  Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe, who was head of SAR in Northland District at the time of the rescue.

“I can’t praise the dive squad enough for their professionalism and their attention to detail.”

Snr Sgt Cliff says it was a massive effort by all those involved, not only from the SAR and Dive Squad members but a whole Police and Northland District approach from the time the incident unfolded.

“There was a real determination to try to get closure on this. Recovering all the members from the boat finalised it.”

Thanks to the work of all those involved, five lives were saved, and the deceased could be returned to their families.

“The quality of this year’s Award winners is exceptional,” says New Zealand Search and Rescue Secretariat Director Duncan Ferner.

“These people and groups represent the very best of the search and rescue sector in 2022.

“Some of these individuals have worked diligently, often for years, to ensure that people in distress have a higher probability of being found. Others have supported people to get involved in search and rescue. Others have headed out into atrocious weather conditions to rescue people at risk.

“Every one of them has sacrificed time with their family and friends to provide a vital service to New Zealand. Without their efforts, fewer families would be reunited or loved ones returned home.”

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