River jumper to pay for rescue

A West Coast man who sparked a search and rescue by diving into a swiftly flowing river to evade arrest has been ordered to pay $1400 towards the cost of the search.

Andrew James Brooks, 34, of Cobden, appeared for sentencing yesterday in Greymouth District Court.

"You are not a child but you clearly acted like one on this night," Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said.

"This is the sort of thing I would expect from a 17-year-old, not a 34-year-old."

Brooks was charged with assault and escaping from police following the incident in the early hours of New Year's Day.

He and two women had misbehaved in the Railway Hotel and were being escorted out by the female bar manager, when Brooks struck the woman once in the face with an open palm.

Police caught up with Brooks at the nearby railway station, but he then fled to the Grey River floodwall and was hiding among rocks by the water's edge when he was again spied by police.

Warned to come up or a police dog would be sent down to get him, Brooks yelled: "Throw the f...g dog at me". He repeated that several times, along with the taunt, "Come and f...g get me, it's a nice night for a swim", before jumping in the river.

He then floated on his back and started kicking toward the opposite bank. About 15m from the rocks on the other side, Brooks' bravado deserted him as he started going under the water and yelling for help, eventually disappearing from view.

The Coastguard's inflatable boat and the NZCC West Coast Rescue helicopter subsequently swept the river looking for him for over 40 minutes. After an unsuccessful search his family was told that he was missing in the river, but Brooks was later located hiding on Cobden Island.

Brooks showed no remorse for the searchers or his family, who had been told that he had drowned, saying: "Oh well, they'll get over it."

In explanation Brooks told police he had taken acid that night and thought he was Superman.

Judge O'Driscoll sentenced Brooks to 200 hours' community work and ordered him to pay the $1400 compensation to the rescue helicopter at $50 a week.

The judge said that he regretted the fact Brooks could not be charged with putting emergency services personnel at risk.

"Your actions were nothing short of gross stupidity, you clearly put others at risk.

"Your comments afterwards showed little remorse or concern about the impact your actions had on police, other emergency services or even your family."

- Greymouth Star

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