Jet skier saved by his mobile phone
By RENEE REDMOND
WITHOUT his mobile phone, Brad Heard would never have been able to reach the men who rescued him from the rough seas off Ballina.
On Sunday afternoon, the Ballina 20-year-old was stranded outside the Richmond River bar after his jet ski broke down.
Buffetted by wild winds, he was being pushed away from the safety of the coast.
Using his phone, which was stored in the glovebox of his jet ski, he was able to call for help, despite drifting more than five kilometres out to sea before he was found.
"I was about 30 metres off the bar when I went over a wave and the heavy landing snapped the oil cable and the ski wouldn't start. I didn't panic because I had my mobile and could call for help. It would have been a different story if I didn't have it," he said.
"I tried calling the coast guard first, but was unsuccessful. I knew my dad was at Shaws Bay so I called him and he went to the surf club to get help."
As Brad drifted further out to sea, the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club sent out its inflatable rubber duckie crew, but they were unable to locate him.
The Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue crew was then called out, while Brad continued to call his father on his mobile phone every 15 minutes to relay his location.
"By the time they found me I'd drifted 7km south and just over 5km out to sea," he said.
"I owe my ski and my life to them.
"I usually have a radio with me as well, but it was at home on the charge. When I'm going out on my own, I always take my phone, plenty of water and a tow rope just in case of an emergency," he said.
Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue president Pat O'Connor and crew member Peter Baird responded to the call.
"Without his phone he would have had to rely on someone seeing him to raise the alarm," Mr O'Connor said yesterday.
"I give Brad full praise. He is an experienced rider and didn't panic. He was able to communicate with us, which is very important."
Brad spoke with his rescuers yesterday about joining the club as a volunteer.
"I want to help out because the club relies on the community for volunteers, sponsorship and donations to survive. It might be you one day that needs help," he said.