Fisherman survives after 30hrs at sea

source: The Australian
original: The Australian
author: unknown date: February 28, 2008

ONE of two fishermen lost at sea after their fishing trawler sank off the coast of Byron Bay in northern NSW has been found alive.A spokeswoman for the Maritime Safety Authority said the man was found floating about 15km north-east of Ballina, on the NSW north coast, at 8.15am (AEDT) today.

A rescue helicopter airlifted the man to Ballina Hospital in an unknown medical condition but rescue crews are concerned for the man's wellbeing.

“Obviously he's been in the water for quite some time,” the spokeswoman said.

The man survived up to 30 hours at sea after the trawler sank when it likely struck an offshore reef about 4am (AEDT) yesterday.

Another fisherman on board the boat swam 12 hours to shore yesterday to raise the alarm.

The 39-year-old made it to New Brighton Beach where he was found by a passerby about 4pm yesterday, suffering from exhaustion and dehydration.

A third man was still missing this morning.

Queensland Rescue spokesman Andy Christie said he spoke to the helicopter crew who located the second man.

“The crew said that he was talking, he was conscious - physically appeared to be okay ... but they were quick to point out that he had spent a very cold night in the water,” Mr Christie told Sky News.

He was not sure which of the two remaining men had been rescued or if he was clinging to an esky, as has been reported.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter spokesman Roger Fry said the ability of two men to survive gave hope to search crews that they will find the third fisherman alive.

“Judging that the second fisherman survived through the night ... we can only hope that the same has occurred with the third,” Mr Fry told Sky News.

Up to 10 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from NSW and south-east Queensland were still searching for the missing crew member this morning.

It is believed the men's trawler, which operates from Brunswick Heads, north of Byron Bay, may have sunk after hitting a reef before dawn yesterday.

The alarm was not raised until about 4pm (AEDT) yesterday, when the 39-year-old fisherman made it to shore at New Brighton Beach after a marathon swim that police described as miraculous.

The survivor found yesterday is recuperating in Mullumbimby Hospital, where he was last night in a stable condition.

He told authorities he last saw his two crewmates clinging to a flotation device, possibly an Esky.