Leading spinal doctor warns Kiwis to take care when wharf-jumping

It might be part of the 'Kiwi summer' for many families, but a leading spinal doctor is now warning swimmers to be careful, when wharf-jumping this summer. 

This follows an incident in Raglan on Sunday when a young woman was critically injured after jumping from a footbridge.

And two years ago in the coastal Waikato, 16-year-old Richard Keremeta was killed when another boy landed on him. 

Gus Vaeono knows about the pain that can be caused when the Kiwi summer tradition goes wrong. 

Mr Vaeono was jumping with friends at Maraetai Beach last January when a bad landing left him a tetraplegic - he lost most of the control of his body from the neck down. 

"I just jumped straight in and I hit the ground, and all of a sudden, I had all of this body shock."

He is advising people to check the water, before entering the water. 

Mr Vaeono's advice ties in with tips from Water Safety New Zealand, who says jumpers should check all spots thoroughly before entering the water, obey all safety signs and never consume alcohol.

Cynthia Bennett leads Auckland's spinal unit and deals with at least one serious spinal injury from wharf or bridge-jumping each summer. 

"It's about having the environment or the attitude, so that it is okay to say 'No mate, I'm not going to jump off this wharf today, not now the tides out'," she says.

Recent figures show three people die annually from diving or jumping incidents, tragedies that families want to avoid, while enjoying a summer in the sun.