Fisherman survives clinging to Esky after boat overturns

ALL AT SEA: A photo from the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter showing one of the vessels that assisted in the search and recovery operation 5km off the coast of Broken Head yesterday.
ALL AT SEA: A photo from the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter showing one of the vessels that assisted in the search and recovery operation 5km off the coast of Broken Head yesterday. Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

THE humble esky has again saved the life of a fisherman just days after South Lismore man Mick Endres's fishing boat was found floating unoccupied off Evans Head.

John Milne, owner of the 7.5 metre aluminium Sailfish twin-hull commercial fishing boat, Nancy Joy, raised the alarm at 3.10 pm yesterday, when two experienced trap fishermen, Graham Smith and Nicholas Slack, were 90 minutes late returning to Ballina.

"Concerns for welfare were raised for the two persons on board as they were both professional and very experienced after attempts to contact both their mobile phones failed," NSW Police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Paul Farquharson said.

The two rescued fishermen (in white) safely back on shore in Ballina after their vessel overturned off Broken Head.
The two rescued fishermen (in white) safely back on shore in Ballina after their vessel overturned off Broken Head. The Northern Star

Sgt Farquharson said Marine Rescue and five commercial fishing vessels joined in the search of waters off Broken Head along with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jet Boat.

By this stage the two men had spent nearly two hours in the water.

"At 4.15pm the vessel was located overturned, two nautical miles east of Lennox Head with one crewman on the upturned hull and the other clinging to an Esky, 200 metres north of the upturned hull," Sgt Farquharson he said.

"Both men were pulled from the water and taken on board another fishing vessel, both suffering nil injuries."

It's not the first time an esky has saved a life in a boating accident recently. Late last year two men spent 14 hours clinging to an esky before they were rescued off the Clarence after their boat overturned. 

Sgt Farquharson said the fishing boat returned to Ballina harbour where the men were met by paramedics and examined for any injuries.

During the mission, Sgt Farquharson said resecures encountered up to 30-knot north-easterly winds and two metre seas, which may have contributed to the boat overturning.

"The vessel is unable to be salvaged at this time due to the conditions and we expect it will possibly wash ashore tonight, near Ballina."

Meanwhile, hopes of finding Mr Endres alive continue to fade after his boat was found floating, unoccupied, off Evans Head on Saturday and the search was called off on Sunday.

Topics:  boating accident editors picks fishing

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