December 8, 2019
It was the 8th of November 2019 and school was out in preparation for senior exams.
A last-minute decision would see 16 year old Paris Schlooz join her older sister Maddison, together with four friends, and go on an adventure to Muriwai.
The South Auckland sisters had never been to the west coast beach before.
It wasn’t an especially sunny day, but in true West Coast fashion, the black sand beneath the group’s feet started to heat up as the clock approached midday. The allure of Muriwai’s breaking waves was an opportunity too good to resist for the sisters and two of their friends.
Muriwai Beach is not for the faint of heart. It is in fact the most frequented beach of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust year on year. Had the young people done their homework, they might have thought twice about entering the waves but, not surprisingly, homework was the last thing on their minds when they entered the water that day.
Paris says “the accident” happened really fast.
“All of a sudden we found we were out of our depth,” she recalls of the little she can remember, “We couldn’t touch the bottom."
Paris says that as much as the group tried to keep calm, a sense of panic set in. While they tried to swim sideways to avoid the rip, they remembered how important it was to conserve their energy as they were pulled further out to sea. With wave upon wave breaking over them, they were well and truly at the mercy of the water.
Eventually, Maddison, the stronger swimmer, was able to swim away from the danger. While no official lifeguards were patrolling the beach at the time of the year, she made it back to shore. A group of off-duty lifeguards and surfers were found to come to the group’s aid.
For the remaining swimmers, their ordeal in the water seemed to last a life-time. Exhausted, the sister’s two friends made it safely back to shore on surfboards and were not too worse for wear. Paris, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well. Semi-conscious, she remembers hearing voices and the surfboard beneath her, but that was it.
Local emergency services rallied around the young people in next to no time. Within 25 minutes of being tasked, Westpac 2, one of two new Leonardo AW169 helicopters, was able to touch down.
Air Crew Officer Callan Carn-Bennett and Intensive Care Paramedic Josh Sanders remember the day well and applauded the efforts of emergency services working together.
While CPR wasn’t required, Paris’ condition was determined to be a status two, meaning she was in a serious condition. Josh, Callan and the team worked hard to stabilise her in the back of the 169. If left untreated, there was the very real possibility that Paris’ young life could be cut short.
“We could see Paris was not taking in enough oxygen,” Josh recalls, “She’d taken in a lot of salt water.
Paris was whisked to Middlemore Hospital where she would stay overnight to take the fluid off her chest. She was released the next day. Although very tired and sore, Paris was able to complete her first exam the following Wednesday.
Paris says that her ordeal has changed her perspective on life.
“Not everything’s a big deal anymore.”
Paris’ mum Simone says that Paris was the most sensible person in life. “If this could happen to Paris, it could happen to anyone.”
The family are very grateful to all those involved in helping their daughters that day.