Men left clinging to chilly bin in Firth of Thames praise quick-thinking cops for rescue

Two Waikato men left clinging to a chilly bin after they were thrown out of their boat in rough conditions on the Firth of Thames have praised police for their help.

Zak Grammer and Jordan Ishigaki told the Police Ten One magazine that despite checking the conditions on February 10, describing them as “flat as a pancake”, they were shocked that within an hour of setting off they’d be turfed into the water.

They were now forever grateful to the actions of several officers, and a member of the public, who came to their rescue.

The pair set off from Te Mata toward the mussel barges in Grammer’s 5-metre boat around 4.45pm.

But by the time they got there, about 5.30pm, they decided it was getting too rough and began packing up.

“By then it was getting choppier, so we packed it in and were coming across the Firth when the wind picked up.”

After about 20 minutes, they realised they could be in trouble.

The nose of the boat went up, throwing Ishigaki into the water, while Grammer was pulled under the canopy and popped up to find his boat three quarters under water.

They were now in the sea but managed to put on their lifejackets.

After swimming to a chilly bin, and still holding his phone, Grammer clicked the power button on his iPhone sending an SOS call to the operator.

He was able to give a few details before the signal cut.

“There was a moment of doubt where I thought I said the wrong location.

“It was pretty rough by now – we were bobbing up and down,” Grammer said.

With the sun setting, conditions were choppy and the water was cold.

Acting Sergeant Leon Balvert was in Paeroa when he received the call reporting the pair in trouble in the water, while colleagues Constables Jordan Crowe and Ben Mason from Thames also responded.

The Coastguard and Police eagle helicopter were also now on their way and as Crowe and Mason travelled the Pacific Coast Rd, they couldn’t see a single boat in the sea.

However, after arriving at the Waikawau boat ramp they found a vehicle and empty boat trailer which was a match.

Meanwhile, as police arrived, fisherman Jason Bithell and his partner had just come in and knowing time was important, the officers asked him if he would take them out.

By this time the crew in the Eagle had found the pair in the water so the team in the boat were able to get there swiftly.

By that time, Grammer and Ishigaki had been in the water for about 90 minutes when they were pulled to safety.

“We were cold, and a bit shaken. Definitely relieved,” Grammer told Police Ten One.

Ishigaki was thankful for the officers in helping determine where they were and getting to them, despite the rough conditions.

“It was great instincts by the constables – they realised we needed to get out there and get them – they were resourceful and brave,” he told the magazine.

Grammer said the incident showed how important it was to have good quality lifejackets, with reflectors and a whistle, and wearing them at all times on the water as things can happen fast.

Having a phone in a watertight case was also imperative, he said.

“That was two things that saved us. For the amount it costs for the value of your life, it’s worth it.”

He thanked the constables and Bithell for all their efforts.

“Thank you to New Zealand Police – It was some quick-thinking in getting that guy to get out there and get us.”

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