Kimi Oshiro pictured with his son Aiki, shortly before the dramatic rescue of two people at Kai Iwi Lakes.
Photo / Supplied
An IT specialist haunted by the harrowing experience of rescuing two holidaymakers who nearly drowned in a Northland lake recently is imploring people to take water safety messages seriously.
Kimi Oshiro sprung into action at
the Kai Iwi Lakes on October 15, plucking out a woman in deep waters who had got into trouble before going on to rescue a man who had passed out underwater after he had also swum out with intentions to rescue the struggling woman.
The 39-year-old Japanese national and the duo he rescued are all from Auckland. Once he helped get the man out, off-duty lifeguard Bailey Hudson from Waipū Cove gave him CPR until emergency services arrived.
Oshiro said the man he rescued went to help the woman but got into trouble himself, as none knew how to swim.
“Thank God – two precious lives were saved this time due to everyone coming together and joining efforts. But as we’re entering summer, I want to remind myself and others the importance of being aware of the different risks that come with swimming in lakes, rivers and seas,” Oshiro said.
“That the waters are different. To educate and prepare ourselves and make decisions accordingly. Also to remember that warning signs are put up there for a reason and they are not to be taken lightly. I hope that this message can save any further drownings in NZ this summer.”
Oshiro, who came to New Zealand from Japan in April this year, decided on a three-night trip with his son Aiki, aged six, to the Kai Iwi Lakes in their campervan.
He saw a group of between 10 and 20 people playing cricket on Pine Beach by the lakes on October 15. As he walked out of the water and was about to sit down, he heard a girl about 100 metres away yelling, “Mummy, mummy,” and initially thought someone had probably fallen over.
It wasn’t until he looked over to where the girl was that he saw hands from arms submerged above the elbow in the water and realised someone was in trouble. Oshiro picked up his boogie board and ran towards the drowning woman, but when he noticed two men who were earlier playing cricket running behind him, he slowed down, thinking they would rescue her.
But when Oshiro realised the two men could not get to where the woman was, he swam out to her, grabbed her hand and put it on his shoulder, and put her other hand on the boogie board.
“She came out of the water and took a deep breath. As I brought her back to shore, I saw men who had formed a human chain scream out for a guy who was drowning, and I thought, ‘I won’t be able to rescue both’.”
The men took the woman off Oshiro and he then swam back out to rescue the man.
“By this stage, I couldn’t see his hands but I kept swimming towards him. I saw his body underwater and he wasn’t moving. I managed to grab the back of his T-shirt, but couldn’t lift him onto the boogie board because he was a big man.
“I then dragged him while he was still underwater and passed him over to two guys waiting in waist-deep water. My arms were sore from dragging him, and I dropped [to] my knees.
“All of a sudden, I remembered my son and ran to check on him. He was fine, but thinking about the fact I could have drowned myself, and not being able to see my son, is a scary thought.
“I have trouble sleeping. Every time I close my eyes, I see the picture of that woman’s face coming out of the water. She looked almost dead. I also see a picture of the man; dragging his body across the lake,” Oshiro said.
Off-duty lifeguard Bailey Hudson and friends Bob Powell, Alyssa Rowley, Lydia Baker, and Kaleb Lusty helped the man regain consciousness while Hato Hone St John paramedics and the rescue helicopter were on their way.
Oshiro said he didn’t witness any of the action after rescuing the man and woman but was hugely relieved both survived.
He’d love to catch up with them.
“It was all through a stroke of luck, because I was thinking of returning to Auckland that morning but for some reason decided to stay put. Having my boogie board with me helped bring the two people to safety,” he said.
It was Oshiro’s first time to the lakes and he has never rescued anyone in the water.
Several drownings and near-drownings at Kai Iwi Lakes in recent years have prompted Surf Life Saving NZ Northern Region to consider whether lifeguards should patrol the lakes.
In January, 4-year-old Shakib Tahir of Auckland drowned in one of the lakes, as did an adult woman in 2018.
The Kaipara District Council manages Taharoa Domain, the area Kai Iwi Lakes is in, in partnership with local iwi.
Surf lifeguards started patrolling Northland surf beaches this weekend at Waipū Cove, Whangārei Heads, Ruakākā, Mangawhai Heads and Paripari Reserve, Ahipara.