Friday, February 29, 2008

Cooler Saves Fishermen

A no-quit attitude and some luck recently lead to the rescue of an Australian angler who spent nearly 30 hours swimming and hoping for rescue. The full story as reported by Yahoo News is below.

Aussie's epic swim saves crewmate clinging to cooler
SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian fisherman's "miraculous" swim through shark-infested seas resulted in the dramatic rescue Thursday of a crewmate who spent 30 hours clinging to an ice cooler after their boat sank.

A helicopter plucked the crewman from the ocean about 15 kilometres (nine miles) off the east coast near Byron Bay early Thursday after the fisherman swam for almost 12 hours to reach land and raise the alarm, officials said.

An air and sea search was continuing for a third man who had been aboard the trawler "Sea Rogue", said a spokeswoman for the Maritime Safety Authority.

The first sign of the drama at sea came when deckhand Michael Williams was found on a New South Wales beach by a walker on Wednesday afternoon.

The 39-year-old had "miraculously swum to shore after their vessel overturned" before dawn Wednesday, a police spokesman said.

A police statement said Williams was "in a distressed state. He said he had been swimming for about 12 hours after his fishing trawler had sunk".

"He had pretty bad cuts and bruises to his legs and his arms, he was pretty exhausted, pretty badly sunburnt," said Chris Gort, who was second on the scene and rang for an ambulance.

Williams was rushed to hospital and treated for exhaustion and dehydration as rescuers raced to find crewmates skipper Charlie Picton and deckhand John Jarrett, who were clinging to debris when Williams set out on his epic swim.

Jarrett, 41, was found holding onto a cooler box and airlifted to Ballina Hospital, saying later he always believed he would survive.

"I have determination like no other person," he told Sky News "I wasn't going to die out there mate, no way."

He said he and Picton clung to an upside down ice cooler, also known as an esky, kicking and paddling to stay afloat.

Jarrett's friend and family spokesman Mark McMurtrie said the deckhand desperately tried to help Picton while keeping the cooler buoyant.

"Every time the esky got a bit too much water in it he'd have to sort of hold Charlie up in one hand and hold the esky up out of the water with the other and then put it back down so it was full of air again," he told reporters.

McMurtrie would not say how Jarrett and Picton became separated, although television reports said the trawler's exhausted skipper was unable to keep hold of the cooler and floated away Wednesday night.

He said Jarrett was expected to make a full recovery but was distressed about Picton.

"He's got an iron will constitution, but he's shattered about losing his mate, simple as that," he said.

Police said an assessment of the search for Picton would be made at nightfall Thursday.

"We hold grave concerns for that gentleman at the moment based on the time the search has been going on and other information we've received," he said.

Jarrett's sister Julie expressed relief that the father-of-three survived.

"He's never going out to sea again, that's all I can say," she told reporters.

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