Video: 'Human chain' saves drowning boy
The boy was swept out to sea as he played on the beach's shore
NEW ZEALAND — Desperate beachgoers yesterday formed a human chain to battle "treacherous, dumping" waves and save a boy from drowning.
Twelve-year-old Joshua McQuoid was caught by a wave and swept out while playing with a friend at the beach on Napier's Marine Parade at 4.55pm.
A German tourist was the first to go to the boy's aid but was unable to keep hold of him, a police spokesman said.
The conditions were described as "treacherous with dumping waves and an extremely strong undertow".
A police officer swam out to the boy but was unable to hold him due to the heavy surf. He was joined by members of the public who tried to help.
A second officer entered the water and reached the boy, at times losing hold of him as the boy went underwater.
He was under for "considerable periods of up to 20 seconds at a time and fading fast", police said.
About 12 members of the public and four police officers then desperately grabbed hold of each other to form a human chain, managing to pull the boy to shore.
Initially he was "unresponsive, physically spent and could not move unaided".
He was moved to the beach where members of the public gave him first aid.
Joshua's father, Shane, said the family was grateful to everyone who helped in the rescue.
"I just wish I could thank each and every one.
"Without them, basically my son wouldn't be here."
Joshua was at the beach with Hikiroa Ratapu and another friend when the wave knocked them both down, Mr McQuoid said.
"I think they had their feet in the water and from what Josh said he turned around to speak to his mate when the wave hit.
"It knocked them down, and his mate and another girl managed to haul themselves out of the water but [Josh] got swept in."
Mr McQuoid said Hikiroa had realised he could not go into the water so turned around and started yelling out to people.
"He was our little hero.
"That's when they started running to help."
Joshua tried to swim to shore but kept getting dragged out and quickly tired while trying to stay afloat as waves broke over him, Mr McQuoid said.
"His exact words were he felt like he was in a washing machine."
Senior Sergeant Mike Stevenson said the actions of the police officers were "admirable".
"The first two officers who braved the conditions . . . displayed a lot of bravery getting into the surf. If they had not done what they had done, I'm positive the boy may not still be with us."
Mr Stevenson said the stretch of coastline was "notorious", and was characterised by a "pretty steep drop-off, thumping waves and really strong undertow".
The two police officers, who became exhausted by the surf, were also helped to shore.
Mr McQuoid said it showed how dangerous the beach was.
"I had talked to him about that beach before and what it can be like with big waves."
Joshua was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital by ambulance and later discharged.
The family visited the police afterward where they saw video filmed by a witness. "The waves were just huge and the force of [them]. It smashed down and dragged back," Mr McQuoid said.
Mr Stevenson said he was proud of the heroism displayed by the first two officers plus the members of the public who had helped.