Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Fatal Tauranga Harbour crash: Rescuers’ heroic actions praised by victim’s son

The son of a woman killed when her SUV plunged into Tauranga Harbour last week has thanked those who “heroically” risked their lives in a bid to save hers.

He described how rescuers used a hammer to smash a window and save his mum’s partner, who was “on his last breath” in the upside-down vehicle.

Today police named Maree Annis Geary, 65, of Otūmoetai as the victim of the crash on Chapel St about 5pm on Wednesday.

The police investigation into the crash continues but initial indications were that three vehicles were involved, one of which became submerged in the harbour.

Witnesses have said about 20 people, including emergency workers, jumped into the water in an attempt to rescue those trapped inside the sinking SUV.

Maree’s son, Kiwi professional golfer Josh Geary, told the Bay of Plenty Times he was grateful to those who jumped in.

“I am blown away by how many people responded so quickly with no thought for their own safety while jumping in to try and save the lives of others,” Josh said.

“It is very moving to hear of what happened, and to see that many people will get out of the car and jump into the water to try and save people they don’t know.”

His mother had been driving with her partner, Shane, in the passenger seat.

Josh said that, by Shane’s account, the first three or four rescuers reached the car “within a matter of seconds”.

“The person that managed to pull Shane out was, unbelievable enough, able to get a hammer out of his or someone’s car – and jump in with the hammer – to basically get him out with that.

“Shane couldn’t get the doors open and he was basically on his last breath. [The rescuer] used a hammer to break open the back window.

“The car was upside down as well. It is just heroic what he has done.”

By the time Shane was pulled out and back to the shoreline, “there would have been 10-15 people already in the water”, Josh said.

Maree was taken out of the vehicle but police have said she died at the scene. The vehicle was retrieved the following day.

“Thank you to everyone who risked their own safety to immediately jump and try and save whoever was in there,” Josh said.

“[I am] very grateful, and with what is going on in the world at the moment, it is very nice and moving to see everyone pull together and try and save someone in that manner heroically.”

Josh said Shane was “very shaken up” by the crash.

“He has gone through the traumatic accident himself and he is going to take a bit of time.

“He is very shaken up and obviously devastated for the loss of mum.

“He has got some good family and friends around him for support, but it has been very very tough the last few days.”

Josh said he had seen speculation his mother may have had a medical incident at the wheel but that was not the case.

“It was the wrong place, wrong time.”

He said the SUV was “spun into the water” after the crash at the lights.

A police spokeswoman said investigations into the circumstances surrounding the crash remained ongoing.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment further while analysts are still in the early stages of the investigation.”

Tauranga City Council is also making enquiries into the crash as it happened on a local road.

Josh hoped the incident would serve as a reminder for people to take care on the roads this season.

“The consequences of a couple of minimal mistakes can lead to devastating consequences.

“Take a bit more time, care and patience on the road.”

– Additional reporting Samantha Motion

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