07.11.20

Four men have been plucked from the hull of an overturned catamaran, by the Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter crew, in a winch operation off the coast of Fraser Island this evening. (Sat 7th Nov)

It’s believed the group of tourists had been attempting to turn the 5.2 metre boat, when it flipped, flinging them into the water.

They managed to climb onto the upside down hull and set off an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), alerting Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), who immediately deployed the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter, just after 5pm.

Racing against fading light, the chopper crew used the signal to locate the vessel, west of Wathumba Creek.

Pilot Tony Miller brought the helicopter into a low hover above the water, while Rescue Crew Officer John Kennedy was winched down to the vessel.

The helicopter crew performed four separate winch extractions, hoisting the men individually from the overturned boat, into the safety of the aircraft.

“They were wet and cold, because they’d been out there for about an hour and a half before we arrived,” said Aircrew Officer Brent Malden, who operated the winch.

“They had set off flares to try to alert other boats that they needed help, but it seems nobody saw them, perhaps due to significant smoke haze around the island.”

They were flown to Hervey Bay Hospital, with only one of the group requiring medical treatment for superficial injuries to his leg.

“It shows the importance of safety equipment. These guys absolutely did all the right things, ” said Brent Malden.

“They were wearing life jackets, they had flares, they set off a registered beacon. One of them had the beacon tied to himself. Thanks to all those safety measures, we were able to find them quickly and rescue them.”

AMSA has again encouraged boat owners to ensure they have an up to date, registered EPIRB, which assists in locating a boat in trouble, but also enables authorities to contact family members.