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Many hands made light work of a rescue emergency at Wainui Beach, Gisborne yesterday morning.
Wainui man Murray Quilter developed a severe medical condition just after he surfaced from a dive off Tuahine Point at about 10.30am.
He was helped initially by his wife Sue, who was on the water with him, then by surfers, a jet skier and his companion, plus a large number of local residents.
The 53-year-old is recovering in Gisborne Hospital.
The couple had their small runabout anchored about 500 metres off the point.
"Murray had just surfaced and was on his way back to the boat when he suddenly developed excruciating pain in his head and called to me for help," said Mrs Quilter, who had stayed in the boat.
"He was obviously in great pain and tried to swim back to the boat but couldn't make it."
Mrs Quilter said she steered the boat over to him and helped him on board.
"I called Gisborne-Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club on the radio for help and they called 111 to get an ambulance to the end of the beach."
She took their boat in towards the beach but the surf had got up a bit and she was not confident of being able to drive the boat through it.
"I didn't want to lose control and risk Murray ending up in the water and maybe drowning."
She was helped at that point by a couple of surfers who were in the area and called to a man on a jet ski as well to help.
"The jet skier was towing a sled with a couple of people on board.
"He dropped off all but one of his passengers, then came to help us.
"We got Murray on to the sled and the remaining passenger lay over him to secure him to it, then they took him through the waves to the shore."
A number of nearby residents arrived to help and together they helped Mr Quilter up the beach and made him comfortable until the ambulance arrived.
He was taken to Gisborne Hospital where he was assessed in the accident and emergency department, X-rayed, given a cat scan, then admitted.
He is in a general ward, in what is described as a stable and comfortable condition.
"The doctors are still assessing what caused his intense headache but say it could be linked to a heart-related condition Murray suffers from," his wife said.
It is not believed to have been associated with the diving her husband was doing at the time.
"It was quite shallow out there. He was only down about 30 feet," she said.
The wetsuit he was wearing had to be cut off him when he was at A and E.
"It is only the third wetsuit he's had in 40 years of diving, so he is a bit miffed about it. It's a good excuse to buy him a new one," she said.
Mrs Quilter said her husband was also concerned about the crayfish he had caught while diving.
"He asked us several times as he was being helped on the beach to make sure we measured them.
"He was more worried about that than he was about getting into the ambulance."
The Quilters are both members of Wainui Surf Lifesaving Club, along with their high-performing New Zealand representative lifesaving children Laura and Ben.
"We are all just so relieved at the outcome of yesterday's emergency and are so thankful to the massive number of people who helped Murray at the beach, and later in hospital," Mrs Quilter said.
- By Murray Robertson of the Gisborne Herald