Koteka took the lead in the swift rescue of the three teens, who became stranded in the sea off Arorangi late on Friday afternoon.
The three youngsters were growing tired, having been treading water in the ocean for about 40 minutes, before being plucked to safety by veteran fisherman Koteka and two others (one of whom was Tiki Tetava, son of Cook Islands Police Commissioner Maara Tetava).
Koteka downplays the heroic role he and his team played in the rescue but it was his quick response in setting off from the Avatiu Marina that prevented what could have been a terrible tragedy.
“There was no drama, we just pulled them out,” he says.
Thankfully, the three boys had managed to stay afloat fairly close to each other. Four of them had been in the water off the Arorangi Jetty but had been swept out of the channel. One boy managed to make it back and raise the alarm.
Koteka describes the conditions as rough with a heavy swell at the time, and believes the boys would have been forced out by the current. They may have been trying to swim back in but could only tread water out from the mouth of the channel. Witnessess were able to see their heads bobbing in the water.
The Cook Islands Police Service has praised Koteka and extended their gratitude for his swift action. After first becoming aware of the situation, the police set out to mobilise first responders by sending messages to the local fishermen. Koteka took the lead as other boats were incapacitated with no fuel after the day’s fishing. It was well after 4pm and Koteka was wrapping up for the day when he received the police request for help. He took two other men with him for the rescue because he anticipated needing the extra muscle to haul the boys into the boat.
The rescuers were on the scene by 5.15pm and the teens were brought to safety in less than half an hour. They were eventually examined at the hospital and later discharged. They range in age from 13 to just under 15.
Koteka and his team have since been publicly lauded for their actions, with some recommending that they receive awards for bravery.