Great Barrier Island sand dune collapse a 'terrible freak accident', principal says

A file photo of Great Barrier Island.
A file photo of Great Barrier Island. Photo credit: Getty Images


The close-knit community of Aotea / Great Barrier Island is on tenterhooks as two boys battle for their lives in hospital after what is being described as a "terrible freak accident".

The boys, who are not brothers, remain in a critical condition in Starship Hospital after being trapped under a collapsed sand dune on Sunday afternoon.

One of the boys is a student at Kaitoke Area School.

Principal Leanne Eloff said the community was in shock and hoping the boys pulled through.

"This was a terrible freak accident. Our focus is supporting the family, along with the wider school whānau, through this hugely difficult time," Eloff said.

"We are a tight-knit community here on Aotea, where everybody knows each other, so something like this impacts everyone. We are all hoping for a full recovery for the boys."

Locals RNZ has spoken to declined to comment, saying the community was reeling.

Details of the dramatic rescue near Medlands Beach on Great Barrier Island are emerging.

The boys were pulled out of the collapsed dune by members of the public and local first responders, and needed resuscitation.

A Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called to the scene at 4:30pm.

Attending critical care paramedic Ross Aitken said the pair were buried for a prolonged period of time.

"Certainly the majority of them was covered or completely covered. They were extracted by bystanders and they were brought out unresponsive and requiring resuscitation."

The sand dunes were typical of most surf beaches, Aitken said.

"It's what I'd describe as a very standard east coast high energy beach, where you've got a stretch of sand and then the dunes that replenish the beach going out the back. Not dunes like you'd see at Mangawhai."

Those who were at the scene, and the first responders, did all they could and remained calm, Aitken said.

"Everyone there that was pitching in was incredibly professional and focused and I wouldn't describe it as an emotional scene. Everyone was focused on doing what the boys needed."