Surf Life Saving to install flotation devices at beaches to help prevent drownings

Surf Life Saving has launched an initiative to install floatation devices at New Zealand beaches.

The move was triggered by the death of a father who drowned trying to save his three children at Cable Bay five years ago.

Leigh Albert's late partner Wairongoa Renata - known as Magoo - would drop everything to help anyone.

"He was one of those people that would do what he could and serve anybody he could," Albert told Newshub.

So when a beautiful Cable Bay day suddenly turned dangerous and a rip swept her sons out, her daughter rushed to try and save them.

"My partner Magoo jumped in to save her and the boys, and unfortunately he drowned," she said.

Magoo was one of 23 people who died in drownings on the coastline in 2018.

Data for 2021 and 2022 reveals that everyone who died attempting a bystander rescue did not carry a personal flotation device.

"I don't want anybody else to go through what we've been through. Like, now I'm a single mum. I woke up one day, I had a partner, we had a family, and we had a definite trajectory of where we were going to go," Albert said.

"By the afternoon our entire lives had upended."

But that tragedy triggered an incredible chain of events.

Magoo's cousin Pat Millar launched Operation Flotation to put a flotation device at Cable Bay, then every beach in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"I've swum with these flotation devices and they really, really do help you float," Millar told Newshub.

Then, Surf Life Saving got on board with Operation Flotation, creating standards for public rescue equipment, a move Albert says Magoo would have been proud of.

"He'd think this was absolutely awesome. He would not mind going in this manner so that other people would be safe."

And the devices have had results.

At Marine Parade Beach in Ahuriri/Napier, floating buoys have already helped prevent one drowning.