Men stranded for hours after fishing trawler sinks

The Coombell Star sunk overnight.
The Coombell Star sunk overnight. Halden Boyd

UPDATE: EVANS Head fishermen Brett McMahon and Glenn Deas are luckily to be alive after the trawler they were on sunk last night, leaving the pair stranded for more than four hours.

The trawler, Coombell Star, is believed to have run into trouble shortly after 11pm on Wednesday night when its net became snagged.

Marine Rescue Northern Rivers regional controller Stephen Reading said the fishermen, who weren't wearing lifejackets, managed to get off the trawler and clung to floating buckets nearby.

"It went down so quickly they didn't get an emergency call out or anything," he said.

"Literally the vessels pull themselves under because they're just trying to power ahead and they're being held and they'll just go on to one side."

Fortunately, a tinny that had been secured to the roof of the 45ft trawler floated to the surface and the two men were able to climb in.

"When they eventually got into this tinny one of the guys actually had a phone in his pocket and the phone was still working so they were able to make some calls and that's the only reason we knew the incident occurred," Mr Reading said.

The fishermen were able to make contact with other commercial trawlers in the area who began searching.

At 2.50am, Ballina Jet Boat crewman Gary Meredith said they received a call about the trawler from police.

Mr Meredith said the location of the fishermen was difficult to determine as the phone was regularly dropping out of reception.

During the search, which was conducted between Evans Head and Ballina, the Jet Boat received a call from crew onboard the commercial trawler Havanna who were able to give them a possible location, about 2km off Chinaman's Beach, Evans Head.

Using night vision goggles, the crew, Gary Meredith and Brad Heard, were able to pick up a light from the mobile phone which the fishermen were using to attract attention.

"We pulled up beside them at 5.15am," he said. "They were cold and in a little bit of shock.

"They were lucky that (the tinny) broke away when the boat sunk, because that gave them floatation.

"If that didn't break away, they had nothing."

A spokesperson for Ambulance NSW said both men were assessed and treated for exposure when they arrived on shore but no one required hospital transport.


INITIAL REPORT: A POPULAR Evans Head fishing trawler, Coombell Star, has sunk overnight, leaving two men stranded for more than four hours at sea.

Marine Rescue Northern Rivers regional controlled Stephen Reading said at about 1.30am the trawler's net became snagged on an object and the two Evans Head men onboard, Brett McMahon and Glenn Deas were forced to abandon ship.

Marine Rescue Northern Rivers regional controller Stephen Reading said the men clung to floating buckets before a tinny secured to the roof of the trawler came lose and the men were able to get onboard.

Mr Reading said while the trawler's emergency signal appeared to have failed, the men were able to use a mobile phone to contact nearby commercial fishers.

A search involving Evans Head and Ballina Marine Rescue, Ballina Jet Boat Rescue and commercial fishermen commenced and eventually the two men in the tinny were located at about 6am when someone spotted the light from their mobile phone.

Both men were treated for shock and had sustained minor cuts and scratches.

Topics:  emergency services fishing trawler trawler

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