Men rescued from Canterbury lake ‘lucky to be alive’, says chopper pilot

Westpac Rescue Helicopter

A view of Lake Ellesmere from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter shows an upturned boat, right, and a local rescuer, top.

Two men rescued from Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere after their small boat capsized are lucky to be alive, the helicopter pilot who helped save them says.

Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter pilot Regan Graham winched one man from the water at about 5.40pm on Wednesday and flew him to Christchurch Hospital.

Another man was brought safely ashore in a boat belonging to a member of the public.

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The two men got into trouble about half a kilometre from Greenpark Huts on the north shore of the lake, south of Christchurch.

“They were very lucky,’’ Graham said.

“A boat had just arrived on the scene when we found them. Two people were clutching on to the boat. They seemed to be too exhausted to get on (board).”

“They were lucky to be picked up when they were, they had been in the water for a while.”

Garden City Helicopters

The Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter winched a man from Lake Ellesmere on Wednesday. (File photo).

Local resident Ross Wilson saw the rescue unfold from the shore.

“A guy in a boat went to help them. He was hanging on to them and keeping them afloat,’’ he said.

Graham said people should be careful on the water during the summer.

“We would remind people to have two forms of communication and a life jacket.”

Lake Ellesmere can be deadly. In January, Christchurch man Louis Solofua, 59, died after kayaking on the lake to check his fishing nets.

His body was recovered about five days after he went missing after extensive search and rescue efforts.

DAVID WALKER/STUFF/Stuff

The two men got into trouble near the northern shore of Lake Ellesmere on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Water Safety New Zealand spokeswoman Sheridan Bruce urged people to remain vigilant on the water during the Christmas and New Year holiday.

She said 65 people had died in the water by December 22 this year, compared to 75 fatalities for the same period in 2019.

In 2019, six people died in the water between December 24 and January 5, she said.

“Even though the toll is down it is still too many lives needlessly lost.

“All it takes is one moment of carelessness, one moment of unnecessary risk taking, one moment of stupidity.

“Every one of these deaths is a tragedy for a family and a community. This unnecessary loss of life has a real and profound cost to our society.”

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