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Coastguard’s Mayday Appeal

Be there for our volunteer heroesHi,

Our volunteer heroes are always there to help people in danger. This May, you can be a lifesaver too. Make a donation today to save lives at sea.

A donation of $50, for example, will provide one hour’s search and rescue training for a volunteer.

You’ll save lives at sea – like three fishermen rescued after a sixteen hour ordeal at sea. Thanks to the combined effort and skills of Coastguard Houhora and Coastguard Northland Air Patrol, the men were brought safely back to shore and reunited with their loved ones.

It’s one o’clock in the morning. The phone wakes you up. Someone you don’t know pleads for your help.

“It’s Rua. I don’t know what to do. The boys still haven’t come back. They’re out there – I don’t know what to do. Can you please help??”

Shaun, Jason and Jesse were long overdue from their fishing trip in the Far North’s Rangaunu Bay. They’d set out at Friday lunchtime; they were reported missing shortly after midnight.

They weren’t answering their mobile phones and the weather had become horrible, with extreme easterly winds and heavy rain. There’d been few other boats at sea when they left, so no-one would have seen if anything had happened to them.

Rua’s call for help started a full-blown search and rescue mission and volunteers from Coastguard Houhora and Coastguard Northland Air Patrol were urgently called.

Rua's call for help started a full-blown search and rescue mission
Just before 6am, the Coastguard rescue boat and plane started to search the Rangaunu Bay area. Their methodical East-West, South-North search pattern would ensure the whole harbour was covered.

But an hour later, there was still no sign of the missing men, or their boat.

It’s in desperate situations like this that Coastguard training is so vitally important.

Volunteer pilot Murray Miskelly made a crucial decision to search the more remote and wilder parts of Rangaunu Bay. Scouring the new search area, at 7.12am the air patrol sighted a partially submerged vessel in the water.

It had to be the missing vessel; Murray radioed the rest of the rescue team, and the Coastguard rescue boat sped through the rough seas as quickly as possible.

And 12 minutes later, with waves crashing all around, three men were seen waving frantically from a small rocky island.

Coastguard Houhora’s top priority was to find out how they were. One was in a very bad state – he had “a belly full of seawater,” cuts to his head and legs, and was numb with hypothermia.

They were wearing only light clothing – Shaun was just in a pair of shorts. They were all suffering from their night on an exposed rock in bad weather, struggling to battle the tide.

The men’s boat had rolled at 4pm the previous day, and Shaun had helped his mates to swim to the rocks.

There was a terrifying period around midnight, at high tide, when the sea completely submerged the rocks.

All they could do was cling on and pray they didn’t get swept away. But now help had arrived.

The fishermen wait anxiously for the rescue helicopter

At 10am, the rescue helicopter winched them on board, and off to hospital. After sixteen gruelling hours stranded at sea, Shaun, Jason and Jesse were on their way home.

Our passionate volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. They’re united in their determination to help others.

Today you can help Coastguard volunteers be ready for the next ‘MAYDAY’ call by helping us fund their training. We need to raise $5,000 each week to pay for tutors, on-water training and simulated search and rescue exercises.

Will you give a donation today? It will fund vital search and rescue training, so we can continue to rescue stranded survivors like Shaun, Jason and Jesse.

Please, if you can, help save lives at sea by sending a donation today. Thank you.

If you have made a donation in the last few days, thank you very much – we will send your receipt very shortly.

Best wishes,
Patrick Holmes
Chief Executive Officer
Coastguard New Zealand

Contact us

Tel: 09 489 1510
Fax: 09 337 0765
Write to Coastguard New Zealand, PO Box 33559, Takapuna, Auckland 0740
Charity registration number: CC36138

Make a life-saving donation