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Waipu Caves Rescue of School Party Close thing

Waipu Caves Rescue of School PartyThursday 20th September

Seven members of the Cave Rescue team with most of the Police SAR squad & NZ Fire responded to Waipu Caves to rescue SIX teenage students from Northcote College along with TWO adults from a flooded cave resulting from rain deluge.

This was originally a party of TWELVE with two instructors with only part of the group managing to exit before the flood waters came up blocking the exit.
These EIGHT were underground since approx. 09:00 and had been trapped at approx. 14:00hrs. Cave entry by Northland SAR Cave Team was not obtained until approx. 18:30.

Contrary to some media reports, SEVEN were taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia & anxiety of which One included a diabetic from the group that got out originally.

There was real potential here as the waters at one point rose over a meter in height from an already high level inside the cave within a few minutes to such an extent, there was only a dry spot of less than 2m where one couldn’t stand up.

The Fire Service with pumps managed to briefly lower the water level to allow entry of One Cave Rescue team member along with a caving instructor (with approx 25mm air pocket in the passage duct), to conduct patient assessment, treat for hypothermia, & start extraction.

SAR only managed to get Four of the students out before the water level rose again rapidly. Very eiry for those inside hearing distinct sound of pump motors, and suddenly noticing everything going silent as the water blocked all noise.

Fortunately, a limited communications link had been setup using our michie phone system which proved invaluable.

The Fire pumps which had increased to three in number was unable to keep up with the increased water flow, the decision was then made to continue with extraction through the flooded exit passage underwater using a rope system.

Everyone had exited the cave by approx. 20:30. All SIX students from the trapped party were transported to Whangarei Base hospital after being triaged by Ambulance with one student ‘status two’, the others ‘status three & four’.

Great admiration for those kids that managed to keep it together under such a trying ordeal. Well done to all involved.