Watertight cell phone saves boatie

IF it wasn’t for a Pringles tin, a marine radio and a lifejacket, three boaties might not have made it to 2010.

From Yamba to Wooli, marine rescue services had a busy day on December 31 plucking boaties from the ocean.

Marine Rescue Wooli (MRW) responded to two back-to-back calls on New Year’s Eve.

The first distress call came from a fisherman who was clinging to his overturned vessel approximately three nautical miles off Minnie Water.

The 28-year-old South Grafton man had been thrown into the water after trying to cut the anchor rope free from the prop.

“This happened after his vessel had taken on a large amount of water which could not be pumped out due to the failure of the vessel’s bilge pump,” MRW president Stephen Reading said.

Responding out of Wooli, the crew of the JJ Ensbey found no sign of an upturned vessel on reaching the estimated location of the call.

The crew immediately started an expanding-square search, running first to the north.

Just before turning for the next leg, Mr Reading said they spotted the missing fisherman no more than 40 metres from the rescue vessel.

After floating in the water for 40 minutes, Mr Reading said the fisherman was exhausted and had swallowed a lot of sea water.

“He had been a dead man swimming,” he said.

Once safely on board JJ Ensbey, the fisherman told the rescue crew he had almost lost the energy to keep himself afloat.

The 28-year-old was checked for any medical problems and then taken to Minnie Water, where an ambulance was waiting.

Mr Reading said an amazing aspect of the rescue was that the fisherman had dived under the overturned vessel to retrieve his mobile phone, secure inside a Pringles cracker tin.

Sitting on top of the overturned vessel, the man was able to call Triple-0 for help and describe his location.

However, Mr Reading said that during the call the vessel sank and the mobile phone cut out.

“Had he not been able to get his phone, the outcome may well have been tragic,” Mr Reading said.

Not long after the crew of JJ Ensbey had returned to Wooli, Marine Rescue Wooli received another call for help.

This time it was from a vessel that had broken down at North Solitary Island.

According to MRW operator Jackie Taffs, the crew of JJ Ensbey had only just reached land when they had to turn around and head out to the island to tow the crippled vessel back to shore.

Meanwhile at Yamba, the Volunteer Coast Guard was kept busy with the rescue of a jet-skier lost at sea.

While out for an afternoon ride, Queenslander Kevin Boyton was knocked off his jet-ski on the Yamba Bar.

Mr Boyton became separated from his jet-ski and was quickly sucked out to sea.

Fortunately he was wearing a lifejacket which kept him afloat for the 20 minutes it took the Volunteer Coast Guard to locate him two miles offshore.



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