Harbour master Dave Duncan. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

False alarm raiser ‘I felt really silly’

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We know to call police if we see a crime, fire service if there is a blaze, the ambulance if someone needs medical attention, but who do you call for an emergency on the water?

That’s the scenario that faced Nelson woman Cass Esposito last Tuesday when she saw a kite floating in the water but no kite surfer, while driving along Rocks Rd.

Pulling over, Cass watched for movement and after not locating the kite surfer for 10 minutes, she made the decision to act. But she had no idea who to call.

“I was worried that maybe someone had come down and cracked their head or was in serious trouble. But I had no idea how to get help,” says Cass.

“I Googled the Nelson Coast Guard and saw on their website that I had to call the police.”

Cass called and around 20 minutes later, two police units, a helicopter, and an ambulance were on scene, trying to sight the person whose kite was floating between Fifeshire Rock and the buoys.

“When it’s on the water and you’re looking from the road or the beach, there are so many things that you just don’t know and won’t until someone is with the person,” says Cass.

“I kept being asked if I thought the person needed medical attention, but I couldn’t even see him. As an observing member of the public you feel pretty stupid and helpless in that situation.”

When the Harbourmaster’s boat was in sight the kitesurfer was sighted, they got up and continued to kite surf.

“I felt really silly and said to the policeman, ‘that was an expensive false alarm’, but he said I did the right thing and I figure it’s better to make a fool of yourself than read in the paper the next day that somebody had died.”

After the incident, Cass says everyone needs to know who to call for help when there’s an incident on the water.

Nelson Harbourmaster Dave Duncan says people shouldn’t hesitate to report dangerous situations on the water.

“Call 111 straight away and ask for police, search and rescue operations should always be directed to police” says Dave.

“Report the incident, stay in the same place, talk to police, keep a vigil eye and, if the person is okay, just ring 111 again and say it’s all good now.”

Dave also says people who report things should not feel silly if the situation is not as it initially appears.

“We all care and the cost is not a problem, we’d always sooner go than not, and if I was in trouble it’s nice to know people care and would ring.”