First pictures of damaged Marine Rescue boat
UPDATE 3.15pm: THE motor cruiser that triggered yesterdays rescues has just appeared - right next to the Marine Rescue boat on the South Ballina beach.
Marine Rescue Commisioner Stacey Tannos said he had been told the motor cruiser not long ago washed up right alongside the Marine Rescue boat.
The condition of the cruiser is not yet clear, but a marine salvage firm is believed to be heading out to the site to inspect it.
UPDATE 1.45pm: THE Ballina Marine Rescue boat, which was abandoned early yesterday after it capsized during a rescue, has been found.
The boat was reported this morning to have washed up on the South Ballina beach, a few kilometres south of South Wall.
Now former Ballina Shire councillor and pilot Margaret Howes has taken to the skies to grab these aerial photographs of the beached vessel.
As you can see from these photos, the boat remains upside down and appears to have begun to break up to some extent.
It is not yet clear whether the boat can be repaired or if it can, whether it would be worth repairing, given it was due for replacement this year. Marine Rescue Ballina has hinted it may be possible to salvage the vessel's hull.
The last major repair to the boat was to replace its engines. That was done last year and cost $50,000.
Ms Howes said she also spotted an area of "very disturbed" water just behind the breakers as she was flying this morning.
"I thought that might have been the other vessel, but couldn't be sure," she said.
Ms Howes, who lives at Empire Vale, said it looked like it would take an excavator and bulldozer to get it off the beach, and if the Marine Rescue did not act quickly enough, the boat looked like it could be washed off the beach and back out to sea again.
Noon: IT IS unknown how long Ballina will be without a Marine Rescue boat after the service's vessel capsized and sank while trying to assist the stricken motor cruiser Wanita on the Ballina sandbar yesterday morning.
This leaves the Surf Life Saving NSW-managed Ballina Jet Boat, which came to the aid of the Ballina Marine Rescue vessel and the Wanita, as the only Ballina-based rescue boat.
Marine Rescue NSW media officer Ken McManus said replacing the Ballina Marine Rescue vessel with a fully equipped boat 9-10m long would cost at least $350,000.
He said the boat that sunk just before 2am was due to be replaced this year.
"At the moment we are covering the area from the north with a vessel based at Brunswick Heads and from the south with a vessel based at Evans Head," he said.
Mr McManus said that due to rough seas, the Evans Head-based Marine Rescue vessel was unable to get across the sandbar at the Evans River mouth to assist the Ballina Marine Rescue and the Wanita.
After both the Ballina Marine Rescue boat and the Wanita capsized, the Ballina Jet Boat sped to the scene and plucked the three Marine Rescue crew and the two men off the motor cruiser from rough seas.
Treacherous conditions prevented the Ballina Jet Boat from crossing the sandbar, entering the Richmond River and dropping the rescued people ashore.
The heavy seas also prevented the rescued people from being winched to safety by the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter.
As some of the people rescued were beginning to suffer from hypothermia, jet boat skipper Mark Puglisi elected to run the boat ashore at Ballina's Shelley Beach.
Paramedics treated the five rescued people and transported them to Ballina hospital with minor injuries.
Police have recommended to Marine Rescue NSW the Ballina crew be nominated for a bravery award.