Coastguard Kaikoura’s Life-saving rescue
"Thank you for saving my dad Wade and my uncle Dylan. I don't know what I would do without them."
It was about 7pm on Sunday evening when Christchurch brothers Wade and Dylan Campbell launched their dinghy back out into South Bay, Kaikoura.
They weren’t out for long when the motor stopped dead. Without power, their boat drifted 300 metres away from shore – and then without warning, a large wave crashed on top of the boat. Both men were suddenly dragged underwater.
Dylan had a lifejacket on but he was struggling as the waves kept crashing over him. Wade tried to help – but the pair were separated by the powerful current. Later on, Wade would recall how panic gripped him as they floated helplessly in the water: ‘I thought, if the sun goes down we’ll be dead; they’ll never find us.’
Alerted to the emergency by a member of the public, Coastguard skipper John MacPhail and his crew launched Kaikoura Rescue into the bay. Two aircraft, including the Coastguard Kaikoura Air Patrol, went up to search for them. Kaikoura Helicopter pilot Dave Armstrong knew what they were up against: “The light gets flat and the sea goes black and you can’t see anything on the water. They were extremely lucky they were found.”
Wade remembered what he first thought when the rescue crew found him: ‘I didn’t want to survive if my brother died. I wasn’t going home without him.’ Wade asked them to leave him and save his brother first. But a recreational fisherman had already rescued Dylan. Wade recalled, ‘the three people on the Coastguard boat kept me calm, they told me my brother had been picked up, that he was OK.’
Both men were freezing cold, in shock, and suffering from severe hypothermia, but alive and safe. Later on, Wade’s son Zenith wrote a touching letter to the rescuers, thanking them for bringing his dad and uncle home. It was a fitting tribute to the rescue teams and a moving reminder to all of us how precious life is.
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