Piha Beach tragedy could have been averted says survivor

“Coastguards and warning posts were nowhere to be seen”

Survivor Apurva Modi (Centre) is mourning the loss of his friends Saurin Nayakumar Patel (left) and Anshul Shah (Photo Supplied)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 22, 2023

The survivor of the Piha Beach tragedy in Northland has said that Coastguards were not at the scene and arrived only 15-20 minutes later, by which time it was too late to revive the two young men who were ‘almost dying.’

Apurva Modi, who was with Saurin Nayakumar Patel (28) and Anshul Shah (31) when the two were swept away by waves, described the incident as ‘devastating’ and that the death of his two closest friends will not go away from his memory.

The incident occurred around 5.30 pm with Namrata Shah and Bhumika Bhole, the respective wives of Anshul and Apurva about 150 metres away.

“No Coastguards, no Signboards”

Apurva said that despite his best efforts, he could not rescue his two friends.

“Contrary to reports appearing in some sections of the media, there were neither coastguards at the scene nor any warning signposts. When we went into the water, it was just about knee-deep. Saurin, Anshul and I believed that it was a safe area.” he said.

Namrata also told us that there were no coastguards or Danger Signs.

The rip currents on some sections of Piha Beach can be unpredictable (Wikipedia Photo)

“Otherwise, we would not have ventured into the area. The Coastguards arrived later and brought Anshul and Saurin from the sea. At that time they were alive but not very well. They performed Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) but that did not help,” she said,

Both of them spoke to Indian Newslink at different times and said that they were waiting for the bodies to be released to take further steps.

Apurva said that he had known Saurin since his school days in Ahmedabad while Anshul has been his friend for many years.

The fateful day, the tragic hour

On Saturday (January 22, 2023), five of them – Apurva Modi, his wife Bhumika Bhole, Anshul and Namrata Shah and Saurin (who was not married) decided to go to Piha Beach to enjoy the evening. Little did they know that the Sun was setting on the lives of two of them.

According to Sandra Coney, a member of the Pearce family, one of the first families to buy land when Piha was subdivided in the 1930s, Piha is New Zealand’s most famous surf beach.

(Situated on the West Coast of the North Island, 40 kms from the city of Auckland, this black iron-sand beach has a reputation for awesome surf which rolls in over the Tasman Sea. When Uncle Toby’s Iron Man contest was held at Piha in 1997, canoes were snapped in two and they have never come back. It can be moody, misty and mysterious, wild, wet and wind-swept. The power goes off, the phone lines come down, and sometimes the road in (and out) gets blocked. Living here is not for the faint-hearted.”

Apurva recalled what happened when they reached the Beach.

Destiny chases dreams: Young friends Vishaka Nevraker, Namrata Shah, Anshul Shah, Bhumika Bhosle, Apurva Modi, Saurin Nayakumar Patel, Deep Patel and Sonam Patel (Photo Supplied)

“Anshul, Saurin and I decided to go close to the water since it appeared safe. Namrata and Bhumika decided to stay back. I was the only person who knew swimming and hence did not want to go very far. We were playing with a ball when suddenly a huge wave came over us. Saurin was holding my hand whereas Anshul was swept away. I kept advising Saurin to stay calm, not to leave my hand and swim ashore slowly. Then suddenly, another two or three waves hit and separate us. I reached the shore. Someone called 111 and about 15 minutes later, the Coastguards arrived. It was another 15 or 20 minutes later that they brought the two of them ashore,” he said.

Namrata said that she could see her husband being swept away but was helpless.

“After some time, Coastguards arrived and started asking us, ‘Where are they? Do you know where they were lost?’ They brought Anshul and Saurin ashore about 15 minutes or so later. They were alive, although their heartbeat was slower. The Coastguards administered CPR but my husband and our friend died a few minutes later,” she said.

Apurva said that he panicked when the waves hit them and drew Anshul away.

“But I thought that I can bring Saurin with me. I shouted for help several times but obviously, I could not be heard. We came to the Beach to enjoy ourselves but went back crying,” he said.

Life without friends will never be the same: The young group: Apurva Modi, Anshul Shah and Saurin Nayakumar Patel (first, second and third from right) with family and friends

Pursuing dreams and excellence

The lives of these five people from India demonstrate the aspirations of the young generation that is qualified and talented with an insatiable urge to pursue their dream of higher education followed by a profession or occupation and a better standard of living.

Namrata arrived in New Zealand in 2018, studied IT and returned to India in late 2019. She was among those stranded when borders were closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown. She returned in July 2022 after the borders were reopened. She secured employment in an international IT company based in Auckland. Her husband Anshul joined her on November 1, 2022 and was employed at a BP fuel station.

“Both of us are from a very modest family. We had hoped to settle down in New Zealand and raise a family. Suddenly everything is gone and I face an empty life. I do not have the monetary means to take the body of my husband to Ahmedabad and conduct the final rites as per our tradition. I hope that the Indian High Commission will help,” she said.

The Indian High Commission in Wellington always helps needy people in distress and we will coordinate with the concerned officials to support Namrita during this hour of her need.

According to Apurva, his friend Saurin arrived in New Zealand to study in 2018.

“He is a qualified Electrical Engineer and was working on Auckland’s huge wastewater tunnel project. He was only 28 years old and was thrilled to get this job in August last year. He had dreamt of making it big in his career. I cannot reconcile to reality – that he is no more with us. It was a tragedy in which I lost two of my best friends,” he said.

Grant to ensure Water Safety

About three weeks ago, on December 29, 2022, Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan said that the government’s $63 million package for water safety initiatives in Budget 2020 was a game changer for the water safety sector, which is run almost entirely by passionate Kiwi volunteers.

She said that the support extended was critical to ensure the safety of people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and that people can be more secure. Lifeguards are better equipped on our beaches and Coastguard is sailing new boats to the rescue.

“This is the first time in Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s 110-year history that central government has financially supported surf lifesaving clubs on the frontline, and it has made a huge difference to the work and wellbeing of the key volunteers that run their 74 clubs nationwide. The funding has allowed Surf Life Saving New Zealand to maintain frontline services even when their traditional revenue streams were under pressure due to Covid,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement