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Two elderly fishermen are lucky to be alive after their 15-foot power boat sank off Bermagui earlier today. Surf lifesavers were part of a multi-agency response to the emergency situation.

Video provided by Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.

At 12.18pm today, Marine Rescue NSW received a mayday call from a vessel in distress off Bermagui Harbour.

“Mayday, mayday, we’re taking on water. We’re outside Bermagui Harbour,” was the only information received in the emergency broadcast. No further broadcasts were received.

Marine Area Command tried repeatedly to contact the distressed vessel but received no response.

Marine Rescue NSW and the NSW Water Police issued an “all ships call-out” for assistance and tasked two Marine Rescue vessels from Narooma and Bermagui to the scene.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked by NSW Police to the scene along with the Surf Life Saving Support Operations team from Bermagui SLSC who were able to assist by tasking an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) to the location of the vessel.

The upturned and sinking vessel was spotted approximately 1.5 kilometres offshore.

Bermagui Rescue

“After seeing something in the water, we notified the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter (Lifesaver 23) to confirm the target. From the shore it looked to be in their flight path," said Surf Life Saving Far South Coast Support Operations responder Cheryl McCarthy."The vessel was spotted because of the bright yellow colour of the two fishermen's life jackets."

The IRB reached the sinking vessel to assist, shortly after the helicopter had spotted it.

As the helicopter hovered overhead, volunteer lifesavers Euan McKenzie and William Vaughan-Smith rescued the two men who were in the water and clinging to the rapidly sinking vessel.

The two men were transferred to a Marine Rescue vessel and taken to Bermagui Harbour where they were assessed by paramedics. Both were in good shape despite having been in the water for some time.

Glenn Sullivan, Regional Operations Manager at Marine Rescue NSW, said the two men, aged in their 60s, were on holiday from Victoria.

“The reason we only got the one mayday call from the men was because the boat sank so quickly and the radio stopped functioning once it was underwater,” said Glenn Sullivan.

“They were wearing modern, high quality, inflatable life jackets which, along with their mayday call, probably saved their lives.

“Conditions were quite good when the incident happened. The swell was low but there was some wind chop,” Sullivan concluded.

It wasn’t known what caused the single-engine, 15-foot Haines Hunter vessel to take on water, capsize and sink.

Surf Life Saving NSW Duty Officer Cheryl McCarthy said that the lifesavers and Marine Rescue teams were working together in an attempt to re-float and recover the sunken vessel.

“This is a great example of emergency first responders working together on the Far South Coast,” said Cheryl McCarthy.

“There’s a lot of distance between our clubs and a lot of remote coastline on the Far South Coast. We need to use every asset we have available to get the job done and working with other emergency services such as Marine Rescue and the Westpac helicopter means we can respond to an incident more quickly,” she said.

The Far South Coast Branch recently picked up the Innovation of the Year at the SLSNSW Awards of Excellence for their expertise and collaboration with other agencies during critical incidents and search and rescue operations.


Thursday 28 November 2019