No flagging in search for Jack

Lifeguards bring an IRB up the beach after further seraching for Jack Dixon. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Lifeguards bring an IRB up the beach after further searching for Jack Dixon.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Mount Maunganui surf lifesavers have vowed to keep searching for Jack Dixon “for as long as it takes”, nearly a week after the 5-year-old was swept off rocks near their club. Nearly 2500 volunteer hours have already been logged in the search, which began at midday last Wednesday, with lifeguards from Papamoa and Omanu also playing key roles. Mount Maunganui’s total patrol hours for last summer, to put it in context, were just over 5000. Yesterday, the Mount senior squad received clearance from local iwi to resume training on the water – after a rahui was placed last week – and Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service chairman Paul Treanor said that was an important step. “What has really been emphasised over the last week is that you can never be too prepared,” Treanor explained. “Fitter, faster lifeguards save lives – plus they’re also more resilient and able to spend hours in freezing water searching around rocks, while the wind whips chop in their faces. Having our squads resume training brings some normality back into the club but it also enables us to have more eyes out on the water, as we keep striving to bring Jack back to his family.” Senior lifeguards will perform sweeps of the water before younger members come through, while daily IRB and shoreline vehicle searches will also continue. Police divers spent several hours in the water today, while Sunair and the Tauranga Aero Club checked the entire Bay of Plenty coastline. While the search for young Jack is ongoing, surf club members have also been involved in looking for 37-year-old Stephen Michael Tracey, who hasn’t been seen since September 27. The Mount club is grateful for the support given by local businesses. Marra Construction owner Phil Marra quietly wrote a cheque for $2500 last week to help with the ongoing rescue costs, while Betta Electrical provided a freezer to help store the deluge of food brought in by the community. Treanor said the community response had been awe-inspiring and the outpouring of generosity and sentiment had humbled club members. He stopped short, however, of labeling their actions “heroic”, despite a wider public perception. “All we’ve done over these last, long days is exactly what we train for. The lifeguards from all three clubs have run a gauntlet of parallel emotions since the search began – we’ve shared the agony of Jack’s family and we’ve seen their haunted faces looking frantically out to sea. At the same time, we’ve been the most-equipped people on the scene, the ones who’ve felt most useful and able to help, which is precisely why we put such an emphasis on training and up-skilling our members.” The lifeguards on the water and searching the rocks also needed the support of dozens of other club members, who manned the BBQ, washed down the IRB craft and coordinated movements back at the club, he added. With voluntary weekend patrols beginning for all three clubs from October 25, Treanor said the tragedy was an incredibly timely reminder for lifeguards to keep their standards high. “There’s a lot of pride in our uniform, especially with the efforts of the last week, but with that pride comes a lot of responsibility to serve the public to the best of our abilities. I know all three clubs will keep striving to achieve that.”

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