“The Waves were Crashing and Sending Whitewater Everywhere. We Didn’t Have a Hope”

On 28 August 2012 in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, four of the children of Roy and Tania Te Moni founded themselves stranded on some rocks by rough seas at Opape Beach, near Opotiki, when an incoming tide cut them off from the mainland. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued them. The children were Honey-Pearl, age 18; Jesse, age 12; Billy, age 11; and Danni-Boy, age 10. They had decided to walk from Opape Beach around the rocks towards Morrison’s Bay. Ms. Te Moni said, “It was something they have done hundreds of times. Each of them knew they had a three-hour gap in which to get home.” When she realized that they had not returned, she got what she called an “indescribably horrible” feeling: “Their dad, Roy, immediately set off in their footsteps but knew straight away he couldn’t walk around the rocks. He then tried to kayak around, but that was no good either. We took the four-wheeler up to the top of the track above the rocks to see if we could hear them, but the waves were crashing and sending whitewater everywhere. We didn’t have a hope.” She telephoned the local Coast Guard. She said, “I would have paid thousands to get my children back.” Chopper pilot Alex Loughlin quickly located the children and took them home. He said, “They’d made a hut and were quite comfortable, but once daylight had gone and the tide had pushed them further and further up the cliff face, I think they would have been in real trouble.” He added, “We dropped them right into their backyard where a very anxious but also angry mother was waiting for them.” Eastern Bay of Plenty Search and Rescue coordinator Sergeant Bruce Jenkins praised the four children: “They realised they couldn’t get to shore safely and did the right thing by staying where they were and awaiting rescue. Attempting to swim ashore would have been very dangerous due to the strong currents within the rocks as the waves surge and retreat.” Ms. Te Moni said, “This had already happened to Honey-Pearl once before, not long after we shifted here, but she and her sister decided to swim out. They both got pretty cut up, and we thought they had learned a lesson. Since then we have driven home the importance of staying put and waiting to be rescued.” Honey-Pearl kept her younger brothers calm on the rocks. Ms. Te Moni said, “The emergency crews were all amazing; we called at 3pm and had our children back home at 4pm. You couldn’t ask for anything more. People need to know that in situations like this, phone for help straight away.” She said what the children did the next morning: “They got up and did their chores, but they’re still grounded.”

For Further Information: “Four kids saved in dramatic rock rescue.” New Zealand Herald. 30 August 2012 <http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10830502&ref=rss>.

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