Barry Fuller (black shirt) and Ray Fox (grey shirt) talk to The Northern Star about how they became the latest victims of dangerous waters of the Ballina Bar as their boat was capsized by swell when returning from a fishing trip.
Barry Fuller (black shirt) and Ray Fox (grey shirt) talk to The Northern Star about how they became the latest victims of dangerous waters of the Ballina Bar as their boat was capsized by swell when returning from a fishing trip. Jay Cronan

Ballina boaties' brush with death

“IT was like being in a washing machine – it was a life threatening and desperate situation.”

This was the terror experienced by Ballina men Ray Fox and Barry Fuller when their boat capsized on the Richmond River bar at North Wall earlier this month.

They were returning from one of their regular fishing trips at the 48-fathom line, and the day had gone smoothly.

But then a freak wave hit portside and flipped the boat upside down.

“I'd gone to have a look at the bar early in the morning and I watched five boats go out with no problem,” Mr Fox said.

“So we decided to go out.

“We came back to the bar just before 2pm and were coming across when it just came out of nowhere.”

Mr Fuller said the bar was “low” and when they hit the river, there was a “washing machine effect”.

“It all happened very quickly. I didn't even realise what was going on until the boat was up in the air,” he said.

Both men were trapped in the water underneath the boat.

Although they were wearing lifejackets, these actually prevented the men from escaping easily.

“It was such a weird sensation,” Mr Fox said.

“I was plunging down into the water, the noises were all distorted and I knew I had to get out of there.

“I had no time to think.”

Mr Fuller said waves were breaking over the top of them, but then he caught a glimpse of sunlight.

“I thought I was gone,” he said.

“I'd been trying to get out and I couldn't. This was life or death.

“I've been on the water for 16 years ... I never want to go through something like that again.

“But this bar has been getting worse and worse.

“We are going to have another death here unless it is dredged – something has got to be done.”

Mr Fuller and Mr Fox are “extremely grateful” for the assistance provided by Marine Rescue Ballina, Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue, Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life saving Club and two young men on jet skis. They also appreciated the assistance from Ballina ambulance, Ballina police and the staff at the Ballina Hospital.



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