The recent rescue of a fisherman stranded on rocks in Gold Coast Seaway was delayed by a drone. Helicopter rescuers had to wait for the drone to leave the skies before the injured fisherman could be winched to safety following a boat accident.
The fisherman’s boat’s anchor came loose at around 09:00 hrs and he was washed onto the seaway’s northern wall at South Stradbroke Island. Although he was metres away from dry ground, he was unable to safely exit the boat.
Crewman Tim Wilson of the Westpac Lifesaver rescue helicopter, which was on a training exercise in the area at the time of the event, said: “We sighted a drone probably not more than 10 metres away from the helicopter, buzzing around filming everything that was going on.” The rescue crew wasn’t prepared to risk a collision with the unmanned aircraft.
The fisherman remained trapped in the boat while the rescuers waited for the drone to leave the area. “A rescue that should have taken less than a couple of minutes made it last well over five minutes,” Wilson said. Pre-existing hip problems meant that an aerial evacuation was the only option for rescuers. The fisherman suffered cuts to his legs and was taken to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a stable condition.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said that the incident was a textbook example of what not to do with your drone.