Police praise men for saving boy in Rakaia River

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Methven police are praising two men for saving the life of an Ashburton boy.
He was with three other mates, aged 12-13, enjoying their summer and jumping off rocks into Rakaia Gorge on Saturday January 27.
Fun under Rakaia Gorge bridges turned to fright when one of them, a 13-year-old, was caught in the strong current and swept away.
His mates stayed with him by swimming together about 300m downstream when the force of the water drove all four boys into a cluster of thick willows.
All but one of the students climbed up out of the water to safety but one couldn’t get out; a 12-year-old’s leg was trapped in branches under the water and he was struggling to stay afloat.
It was a serious situation and the boy was in dire risk of drowning.
A crowd of people had gathered nearby and were desperate to help.
But there was no easy access to the riverbank as it was bordered by a sheer cliff.
By this time an older girl with the boys before they got into difficulty had called emergency services. Just after 6pm police were on their way.
Fortunately, a private jetboat was travelling downstream.
The skipper, Jonathon Sutherland, was alerted, unloaded all but one of his passengers, turned his boat around and went straight to the struggling swimmers.
Mr Sutherland and fellow rescuer Christopher Campbell nudged their boat well into the trees and one of the men got into the water and freed the 12-year-old’s foot.
All four boys were scooped up and taken to the riverbank where the crowd had gathered.
Police, fire and ambulance staff were waiting and paramedics assessed the 12-year-old as possibly suffering from having a leg injury and swallowing water.
The 13-year-old who was caught in the current earlier was upset and cold.
Both were taken by Westpac helicopter to Christchurch Hospital, where they were met by their families.
The boy who was trapped was released from hospital the next day with no serious injuries, just a sore ankle.
“This was a serious situation where, if it was not for the quick actions of the two men and their ability to extract the boys using a boat, the 12-year-old boy would certainly have drowned,” says Constable Guy Atkinson of Methven.
“They pulled off a successful rescue during a tense situation.
The pair should be extremely proud of themselves for saving the boy’s life.
“It’s not a day the men or the boys are likely to forget,” says Constable Atkinson.