Two people who were tipped out of their boat and into the ocean on the South Coast at the weekend have lifejackets to thank for saving their lives, police say.
The pair – a man and his daughter – spent about 90 minutes drifting in the water, after the catamaran they were aboard overturned in choppy conditions at Jervis Bay on Saturday.
It was about 6pm when a gust of wind is believed to have flipped the vessel, sending the 53-year-old man and 23-year-old woman tumbling into the water.
The incident, which happened about 300 metres north of Greenpatch beach, sparked a multi-agency rescue operation.
Emergency services – including officers from Shoalhaven police, the Australian Federal Police, the Marine Area Command and the volunteer Marine Rescue Association (MRA) – raced to the location and found the vessel unoccupied.
Bruce Mitchell, the MRA’s Illawarra operations manager, said marine rescue volunteers were nearby at the time and quickly on the scene.
“It took a little bit of time to find the catamaran … but once they found it, it was a matter of working out the drift with the wind and which way they [the sailors] went,” Mr Mitchell told the Mercury.
The man and woman were found in the water just off Bristol Point about 7.30pm and assisted to shore. The woman suffered minor injuries; the man was not injured.
Chief Inspector Steve Johnson, from Shoalhaven police, said both were wearing lifejackets.
“The lifejackets kept them afloat and no doubt contributed to their survival,” Chief Inspector Johnson said. “Not wearing a lifejacket can have serious consequences.”
Eight out of 10 people who drowned in NSW while boating were not wearing a lifejacket, he said.
An 80-year-old fisherman died in Bewong Creek, south of Nowra, last week after falling out of his boat. He was not wearing a lifejacket.
Mr Mitchell echoed the importance of wearing a lifejacket. “There’s been a number of rescues in the past couple of months, where people have been saved because they were wearing lifejackets,” he said.
The name says it all: lifejackets a no-brainer
The article on page two, about a man and his daughter who were rescued from the ocean on the South Coast at the weekend, could have had told a very different story.
Rather than one of survival – thanks to a simple, yet vital piece of safety equipment – the story could have reported two members of the one family becoming the latest NSW drowning victims. Luckily, that wasn’t the case on this occasion.
All too regularly since Christmas, we have heard of another tragedy in the water – be it in the ocean at one of our beaches or in an inland body of water, such as a creek.
Most recently, an 80-year-old fisherman’s body was found in a creek at Bewong, south of Nowra, on Wednesday morning.
The man had failed to return from a fishing trip the previous afternoon.
Police say he appeared to have fallen out of his boat and was not wearing a lifejacket.
His death came after 18 other people died from drowning or suspected drowning in NSW since December 18.
In comparison, 16 people were killed on the state’s roads during the NSW Police Force’s 18-day traffic blitz, Operation Safe Arrival, from 12.01am on December 16 to 11.59pm on January 2.
The pages of this newspaper have told too many stories about deaths and near-drownings in the water.
We’ve also shared stories that included impassioned pleas from those who know our beaches and waterways best – surf lifesavers, council lifeguards and the police.
Despite the warnings from authorities, it appears the messages about water safety aren’t getting through. The message, in the context of Saturday’s Jervis Bay incident, is as crystal clear as the very water the man and his daughter found themselves in after their catamaran overturned.
If you’re at the beach, swim between the flags during patrolled hours, never swim on your own and learn how to identify a rip.
If you’re on a boat or rock-fishing, always wear a lifejacket. Chief Inspector Steve Johnson, from Shoalhaven police, said lifejackets kept the man and his daughter afloat and “no doubt contributed to their survival”.
Lifejacket requirements vary depending on the type of vessel being used.
All recreational vessels must carry an appropriate lifejacket for each person on board and the jackets must be the correct size for the wearer, Chief Inspector Johnson said.
To find the right lifejacket for you, visit: lifejacketselector.com.au