Columba College has vowed to review its school excursion
safety policy after 18 pupils narrowly avoided tragedy when
they were caught in a dangerous rip near Purakaunui
Principal Elizabeth Wilson said it was only by ''the grace of
God'' and the help of members of the public, that Columba
College was not dealing with a tragedy.
''It could have ended in a tragedy if we hadn't had the help
of members of the public. The grace of God was with the staff
and students today.''
Miss Wilson said the school had been holding a bonding day
for 84 year 9 pupils at Canoe Beach, near Purakaunui.
The girls were supervised by 18 year 13 peer support prefects
and leaders, six teachers and the year 9 dean.
She said some of the pupils were swimming in the water when
''a freak rip'' came through ''very rapidly'' and dragged
several girls out into deeper water.
Fortunately, the girls were rescued by members of the public,
as well as school staff and year 13 peer support pupils.
Miss Wilson said she was satisfied there was enough
supervision for the trip.
The school had a crisis management policy which equipped
staff with skills to manage emergency situations, but in
light of the incident, she said the policy would be reviewed.
She assured parents the school had a record of good planning
and organisation of school trips where safety was
She said year 9 excursions had been run annually by the
school for the past decade, and had previously been to
''It has been a very successful location, but it went very
Miss Wilson was proud of the teachers, the peer support
leaders and the year 9 girls who dealt with the situation.
''Recognising the situation, everyone immediately pulled
together into a successful rescue effort.''
She was also grateful to the members of the public at the
beach who assisted.
She praised the three surfers ''who were a tremendous help to
the girls and I can't speak highly enough of our rescue
''We have a wonderful support network in Dunedin.''
She said many parents and pupils were in shock yesterday as
they were reunited at the school.
Some were seen in tears, hugging each other as they left the
Victim Support staff were at the school to provide help, Miss
''It's been very, very traumatic for the families of the