Multiple local rescue organisations and the team of Lady Musgrave Experience have worked together to help three stranded men whose catamaran sunk out at seas off Bundaberg yesterday afternoon.
The three Gold Coast men thanked their lucky stars when rescued by Lady Musgrave Experience’s Reef Empress after abandoning their 34’ catamaran as it took in water 20 nautical miles north of Burnett Heads.
The catamaran left Lady Musgrave at 5am on Thursday before it malfunctioned, leading to the traumatic ordeal for the men.
Lady Musgrave Experience’s Brett Lakey said his Reef Empress guests were preparing for the journey back to Burnett Heads as the event started to unfold.
“We were loading the guest on and didn’t hear the initial mayday call,” Brett said.
“Then a call from Volunteer Marine Rescue asked if we were headed that way, and we were a couple of miles off course.
“We got on the mic and let the passengers know what was happening.
“We stayed in touch with VMR as we didn’t have a direct route to the tender. And luckily we were able to follow the recuse chopper and they were able to give us a direct route to them and pinpoint where they were.”
Volunteer Marine Rescue’s Graham Kingston was tasked as skipper for the rescue and said it was just after 2pm when the mayday call came through.
“It was an unusual mayday call as it came across on channel 16, normally you would expect it to come from an EPIRB,” he said.
“The skipper was well prepared with all wearing life jackets and having three EPIRBs to hand.”
He said the rescue reinforced the need for good planning and up-to-date equipment as there were three EPIRBS but the one which was activated was not transmitting.
Graham said as the event was underway it was referred to the water police, who assessed the need for other emergency assets.
“While a VMR crew was being called in the charter vessel Reef Empress advised it could be on scene in about 40 minutes, on the return from Lady Musgrave,” Graham said.
“The Life Flight Helicopter was activated and while circuiting overhead, determined that the EPIRB was not transmitting.
“Bundy Rescue 2 was then activated by Water Police in case further assistance was required.”
The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight aircraft was tasked by the Queensland Police Service at 2.30pm after the stranded boaties made a mayday call.
The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue pilot flew to the coordinates given by the people in trouble and located the vessel with its stern already underwater.
The trio had already safely disembarked onto a tender boat.
“They had a handheld radio in the tender,” said RACQ LifeFlight Training and Checking Aircrew Officer Chris Jowsey.
“We talked to them and they told us they had no injuries or immediate risk to life, so we decided not to winch, because we were able to contact a nearby vessel to come to their aid.”
“They were very well prepared and did everything right by having EPIRBs, life jackets, and getting into the tender.”
The helicopter hovered overhead until the tourist boat arrived at the scene and took them aboard.
While the catamaran had suffered major hull damage and dismasting, the boat's crew were exhausted but well and were taken to the Lighthouse Hotel for a feed after the eventful day.
Graham said the survivors and their tender were recovered by Reef Empress at 3.44pm.
“Reef Empress passed us in the channel with safe return of the survivors around 4.35pm,” he said.
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