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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

GALLERY: Spearfisherman reunites with Port Stephens officers who rescued him from sea

A spearfisherman has reunited with the officers who saved him from the ocean after being separated from his boat and circled by a bull shark in Port Stephens.

On Saturday 26 December 2020, Matty Smith was spearfishing off his vessel with a friend near Broughton Island when they surfaced to find the boat missing.

After experiencing an engine problem, the boat drifted from the spearfishermen before the skipper on board – a friend of the pair – let off a flare.

Senior constables Glen Young and Nick Leach from the Port Stephens Marine Area Command found the boat and picked up the skipper before starting a search for the stranded spearfishermen.

Senior Constable Leach said they were searching for the men in difficult conditions.

“The wind had got up so there were whitecaps on the water, so finding a couple of divers in the water was pretty hard, like finding a needle in a haystack,” he explained.

“They’re dressed in camouflage gear.”

The men, aged 36 and 28, were attempting to swim about five kilometres to shore and had been circled by a bull shark before being found by police about 4.25pm.

“I looked up and saw the red and blue lights and the relief and gratitude I had then,” Mr Smith said.

“I thought I need to get on that boat, especially after seeing the shark.

“Had the officers not arrived, the thoughts I was having were either: with it being dusk and the sun going down, potentially a shark attack or probably one of us potentially drowning.”

Senior Constable Young said it was lucky they found the men when they did.

“They were quite exhausted when they got on the boat,” he added.

“I think they only would have had another hour in the water before they maybe would have possibly drowned.”

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