Surf Lifesavers Rescue Fishermen at Night

Two fishermen are counting their blessings after being rescued by the crew of the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat in a dramatic night-time search operation near Evans Head on the state’s Far North Coast.

The Jet Boat was tasked by Police at 2.50am on Thursday 5 March to respond to reports a trawler was on fire off the coast of Evans Head. The volunteer rescue crew of Gary Meredith and Brad Heard grabbed their night rescue kit, rushed to launch the vessel and were negotiating the choppy conditions of the Ballina River bar shortly after 3am.

As it turned out, the trawler had actually become snagged on a fishing net which pulled the boat underwater, rapidly sinking the vessel. The two fishermen aboard were tossed into the water but miraculously a small aluminium boat that was secured to the top of the trawler floated to the surface and the men climbed into the tinnie.

The fishermen had managed to retain a mobile phone and were able to intermittently contact other trawlers at sea in the area. The Jet Boat crew were receiving relayed reports from Police as to the possible location of the stranded fishermen, firstly heading south to Evans Head, with the search area then moving further south to Snapper Rock.

The search was proving difficult in the extremely dark conditions and the rescuers were using a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera to try to spot the missing men.

Finally, at around 5.15am and about 2kms offshore, the crew spotted a light, which turned out to be the fishermen holding up a mobile phone to try to attract attention.

The men were brought aboard the Ballina Jet Boat and delivered to waiting Ambulance officers at the Evans Head fishing co-op. They were suffering from shock and some minor cuts and scratches.

Far North Coast Emergency Coordinator Jimmy Keough says the fast response of the Jet Boat crew and the purpose-designed equipment aboard the vessel, including the infrared camera, greatly assisted in the more than three-hour rescue effort.

“This is a great result and I commend our volunteers for such a professional and prolonged search and rescue operation in very difficult conditions,” said Jimmy Keough.

“The fishermen are extremely lucky a number of things went their way and the Ballina guys had the equipment and skills to launch such a rapid response.”

Pic: The Coombell Star trawler which sank off Evans Head

Thu 5 Mar 2015