Esky proves real lifesaver
John Lynch (34) and Paul Maher (25) were on a social fishing trip to celebrate their last day of work for the year on Friday. But recent repairs to the hull of the old cabin cruiser they were on appear to have failed and it started taking on water off the coast of Ballina at around 3.30pm.
The two men managed to make a mayday call and put on life jackets before being forced into the water.
Ballina Jet Boat Rescue and a Police Marine Rescue Unit began searching around their last known location, off the South Wall in Ballina and the Westpac Rescue helicopter began searching from the air.
The helicopter continued searching with the aid of night vision goggles up until midnight on Friday, without success.
The scale of the search was increased for first light on Saturday morning and a total of six aircraft and seven rescue vessels were part of a search co-ordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Helicopter Rescue crewman Jethro Lampe said they were "pretty exhausted but otherwise in good spirits" when they were winched on board. They were treated for hypothermia by paramedics and taken to Lismore Base Hospital.
Sergeant Graham Hill from the Tweed Marine Rescue Unit said the men were "very, very lucky".
Paul Maher celebrated his birthday on Sunday.
Both men had only just received their boat licences within the last three months and for John Lynch, it was his first time outside the heads.
EPIRB location beacons were not required for the trip as they were not travelling more than two nautical miles from the coast.
The men declined to talk about their ordeal.