Ballina bar claims more victims
NSW Maritime has issued safety warnings after two boats rolled on the Ballina bar on Saturday – the latest casualties of the silted-up bar that local fishers say should urgently be dredged.
The two boats, both runabouts, capsized after attempting to cross the bar on the low tide in two separate incidents on Saturday morning; the first just after 6am with two Ballina men aboard and the second at 9am with two Yamba men aboard.
All four men made it ashore without serious injury.
NSW Maritime Regional Manager north, Jim Green, has warned local skippers to take extra care while crossing the bar.
“It is strongly recommended that no crossing is attempted at any time on the falling tide or within two hours following the bottom of the tide,” he said.
Last month Mr Green had also warned boaters that a series of recent floods had caused sand movement and build-up in various locations across the bar.
Meanwhile fishing clubs on the Northern Rivers are calling for the Ballina bar to be dredged.
Secretary of the Ballina RSL Fishing Club Ray Smith told The Northern Star his club was writing letters to Ballina MP and Minister for the North Coast Don Page and other relevant ministers because the bar was changing and becoming more and more treacherous.
The breaking point for the club had come last month, Mr Smith said, when one of their members, Barry Fuller, and his passenger, Ray Fox, overturned on the bar.
“He (Mr Fuller) was no cowboy; he was very experienced,” he said.
“So that was really our tipping point.
"We realised we had to do something.
“When you do everything right and you still come unstuck, it’s pretty scary.
“There’s no Plan B. We have to dredge the bar and make it safe.
“And we can’t wait years for that to happen.
"It’s just too dangerous.”
Accidents on the Ballina bar are increasing agreed Ballina Jet Boat Rescue spokesperson, Elton Cummings.
“There have been six (rollovers) in the last two months – too many this year,” Mr Cummings said.
“Two on one day is unusual, I don’t remember that and I have been a member since 1971.
“We used to do three rescues a year, these days it’s changed.”
Mr Elton said Saturday’s accidents were a result of sand building up at the bar.
“It used to be safe and deep, but the bar is now a shallow bar,” he said.
A NSW Maritime Boating Safety officer has begun an investigation into Saturday’s accidents.