Two Mackay fishermen were winched to safety on 6 December after spending two hours adrift in the ocean after their boat sank off Mackay Harbour, Queensland, Australia. RACQ CQ Rescue spotted the two exhausted men, one who was clinging to an ‘esky’ (coolbox), about one kilometre offshore from Harbour Beach after an emergency position-indicating radiobeacon (EPIRB) was activated.
The men were returning to the mainland after a Sunday-morning fishing trip when the nose of their boat was swamped by a wave and sank quickly. They managed to activate the boat’s EPIRB when it floated to the surface as the vessel sank. RACQ CQ Rescue was tasked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at about 10:00 hrs and began an aerial search of the area for the EPIRB’s signal.
Rescue Crewman Ethan Clissold said it took about 30 minutes to locate the two men as the EPIRB signal wasn’t consistent because of the swell: “We circled the area and out around Flat Top Island and near the mouth of the Pioneer River before we spotted their reflective life jackets and the debris floating in the water. The men were about 100 m apart and were drifting east. Both had lifejackets on and one was trying to hold on to an esky, but they had lost visual contact with each other. They were very disorientated by the swell and had no visual land reference.”
Clissold was winched down into the water as the helicopter hovered overhead to retrieve the exhausted man and take them up into the aircraft. “Fortunately, they had lifejackets on and the good sense to have the right emergency equipment aboard,” he said. “They were both really exhausted and dehydrated after having been in the water for two hours and incredibly grateful that we found them and could help them out.”
The two Mackay men were taken to the Mackay Base Hospital and later released.