Tweed rescue hero avoids jail

A TWEED fisherman who saved an elderly man from drowning in a submerged four-wheel-drive escaped a jail sentence for disqualified driving and drink-driving offences.

His previous heroic behaviour was used to illustrate his otherwise good character in a severity appeal before Lismore District Court.

Darren Noltenius, 40, a commercial fisherman based at South Tweed Heads, had been ordered by a Tweed Heads Local Court magistrate in May to serve four months of a 12-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to mid-range drink-driving (0.090) and driving while disqualified on February 26.

He immediately lodged his severity appeal.

Noltenius feared he would lose his business and a working crab boat if jailed, and his defence barrister Eoin Johnston in argument before Judge Roy Ellis showed the court newspaper clippings about his client's active involvement in the rescue of a 76-year-old man from the vehicle after it went into the Tweed Boat Harbour on July 14.

At the time Noltenius was carrying out maintenance on his boat when he heard the vehicle scrape across the rocks of a rock wall and hit the water.

He immediately jumped into the water to help the elderly man who was struggling to get out of the vehicle.

He repeatedly dived down to the vehicle in three to four metres of water before the man was able to free himself.

Judge Ellis asked Noltenius about the man's condition, with the fisherman replying that he had survived.

At the time of the two driving offences at 5.30pm on February 26, Noltenius had drunk some beer at the Tweed Heads wharves while working on a boat, but then drove to buy fuel and bait, although he later stated he usually had mates around who would drive him because of his disqualification.

Judge Ellis dismissed the appeal and ordered the full suspension of the 12-month jail sentence with Noltenius to be of good behaviour and under the supervision of Probation and Parole.

Noltenius remains disqualified from driving for two years and must attend the Traffic Offenders Program.

Speaking outside the court Noltenius said if he had been jailed he would probably have lost the business.

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