30 Dec 2009

Grandfather who died saving child hailed as hero

11:52 pm on 30 December 2009

A man who died while rescuing his grandchild at Ninety Mile Beach is being described by Northland police as a hero.

Jackie Maynard Wiki of Te Kao was gathering seafood at Ninety Mile Beach at 1.30pm on Tuesday when he saw one of his grandchildren being carried out to sea by a rip, police say.

A police spokesperson says Mr Wiki went under the water to hold his grandson up until another person was able to take him to shore.

A second person took Mr Wiki's granddaughter to safety but the strong rip prevented attempts to get the 55-year-old to dry land. Mr Wiki's body was found later back near the shore.

Mr Wiki's death was one of three water-related deaths in the North Island on Tuesday.

Former journalist Helen Bain, 38, died on Tuesday afternoon in the flooded Ruamahanga River, near Masterton, as she attempted to cross it on horseback.

Ms Bain, formerly political editor of the Sunday Star Times, had more recently worked as communications manager for Forest & Bird.

At Lake Taupo, a 52-year-old man from Palmerston North collapsed and died suddenly on Tuesday afternoon.

Police say he was holidaying with his family and was in the water at Lake Taupo's main beach when he collapsed at about 2pm. He could not be resuscitated.

Heroic act saved children

Northland Senior Constable Chris Yarnton, who is based in Hohura, says Mr Wiki lost his life doing a heroic act.

He says the area around the bluff where Mr Wiki died has the typical west coast beach characteristics, with sweeps and rips and large holes created in the surf line at times.

"You can be walking along and (the sea) is up to your knees and the next minute it's over your head."

Senior Constable Yarnton says if children are playing in the shallows, an adult must be standing alongside them at all times.

Mr Wiki's brother Meinata Wiki told Summer Report the area round the rock where the family was fishing is notorious for sweeps, or large swells.

He said his brother was on the calm side of the bluff and the children were playing in the water there, when they got caught in a sweep and were being carried out to sea.

Mr Wiki said his brother leapt into the water despite the possibility that he wouldn't survive.

"He just jumped in. Any one of us would jump in for our mokopuna, regardless of your own health," he said.