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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Divers count their lucky stars after boat sinks near Port Stephens

Four divers are counting their lucky stars after their 4.8-metre vessel capsized and sank off Broughton Island, near Port Stephens, this morning.

The quartet’s experience, the boat’s safety equipment and the fast response by the RCC in Canberra, the NSW Water Police and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service all played a pivotal role in their safe return – not long after they set out on a fishing trip.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) response centre duty manager Joseph Zeller said it was a good outcome for everyone.

“Because the vessel owner had done all the right things – registered the EPIRB, told his emergency contact where they were going and when they were expected back home – we were able to initiate a rescue quickly, knowing what we were dealing with,” he explained.

“While the boat and valuable equipment was lost, thankfully no lives were.”

The Westpac 4 chopper was tasked to the scene after the vessel’s EPIRB was detected just after 7.20am on Monday 18 January.

The men on the stricken boat also had time to set off a flare, alerting a fisher on a nearby recreational vessel who was able to get to the location rapidly to pull all four to safety.

The fisherman conveyed the four recreational spear fishers to Broughton Island where they were met by the Westpac helicopter and underwent a medical assessment.

Marine Rescue Port Stephens then transferred the quartet to Port Stephens where an ambulance was waiting to conduct further evaluations.

“The owner of the vessel had all the proper emergency equipment – and knew how to use it,” Mr Zeller said.

“Setting off the flare resulted in a rescue soon after their boat capsized, which meant that when rescue authorities arrived on scene, the four people were out of immediate danger.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of having your safety equipment in order.

“This rescue is a good example of how smoothly rescue authorities and others around you can respond when you have the right equipment, it’s accessible in the event of an emergency, and you know how to use it.”