Coroner criticises Far North council over dad’s drowning at beach

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Far North District Council has failed to warn people about the dangers of Cable Bay following a drowning in 2018, a Coroner’s report says.

Cable Bay in Northland.

Cable Bay in the Far North is prone to sudden changes in water depth, strong currents and large waves. Photo: Google Maps

Army veteran Wairongoa Clarence Renata, 54, died while trying to save his five children from a strong rip at Cable Bay in Northland.

Upon seeing his children being dragged out to sea, Renata quickly entered the water in an attempt to help them. He was heard yelling “somebody save my children, help, help”.

It said there was evidence provided by Renata’s family that he was not, to their knowledge, a strong swimmer.

At least half a dozen members of the public swam out to save the children and Renata, but despite resuscitation efforts he was dead by the time he was helped back to shore.

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An investigation into Renata’s death said the popular beach appeared deceptively safe, but in fact contained life threatening hazards which are hard for people to spot.

There was – and remains – no surf lifesaving service at Cable Bay to provide hazard surveillance, advice and rescue, it said.

The council had acted in a “wholly unsatisfactory” way by not installing any warning about the beach’s dangers, the report said.

“The beach hazards that claimed Mr Renata’s life are, sad to say, a continuing feature of Cable Bay Beach,” the Coroner said.

Cable Bay was prone to sudden changes in water depth, strong currents and large waves, an expert said.

The report recommended water safety signage needed to be placed at Cable Bay and extended to other beaches in the region.

“I am dissatisfied with the complacent approach taken by the Far North District Council to ensure the mitigation of beach hazards in this region,” the Coroner said.

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The council said in the report that it deemed the placement of two life saving devices located at both Cable Bay Beach Reserve and Little Cable Bay Reserve as sufficient.

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