Lucky escape for whitebaiter

The wife of a man swept out to sea while whitebaiting yesterday says he "did everything right" to get himself safely back to shore.

The woman, who did not want to be named, confirmed her husband was wearing a lifejacket and said he was swept out to sea at the Waitaki River mouth about 8am.

He made it back to shore by himself about 20 minutes later.

"The kids and I are very proud that he fought through it all and came back to us."

"He wasn’t able to get his waders off — but all he did was lay on his back and as soon as [the current] stopped taking him out he was able to get into the waves and get pushed back in."

The woman said her husband was not someone who took risks, and the incident showed how dangerous the ocean could be.

She said the family had holidayed there for more than 15 years and the incident highlighted how easily a "freak accident" could happen.

"We have always talked about what to do if you got swept out.

"He did it picture-perfect and we are so proud of him. Just try and stay afloat; don’t fight the current, just let it push you in."

She felt lucky other whitebaiters were in the area to raise the alarm.

One, who was on the beach, called emergency services, while another raced to the nearby Glenavy Fishing Village to ask for assistance.

By the time a group of village residents arrived, the man was back and the group took him to the village on a motorbike, where they were met by an ambulance.

St John confirmed the man was taken to Oamaru Hospital in a moderate condition. They were unable to confirm his age or where he was from.

The man’s wife thanked the close-knit community at the village which helped her husband, her and their family get through the shock.

A MetService spokesman said the swell at the river mouth was between 4.5m and 4.8m yesterday morning.

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