Cooloola Cove fisherman Adrian Apps set off an emergency beacon to get help when his boat broke down more than 55 kilometres out at sea on Wednesday.
Cooloola Cove fisherman Adrian Apps set off an emergency beacon to get help when his boat broke down more than 55 kilometres out at sea on Wednesday. Craig Warhurst

Rescue drama at sea

IT wasn’t do or die for Adrian Apps when his boat broke down at sea on Wednesday, but with no power or radio transmission, the Cooloola Cove fisherman had to activate an emergency beacon to be rescued.

He had tried to get assistance all afternoon by setting off flares in the hope that someone would see he was in trouble, but had no success. After drifting out to sea for a while, he threw in the anchor and spent nearly three hours pulling the motor apart.

“The last thing you want to do is press that EPIRB,” he told The Gympie Times yesterday.

“Boats went past and I let off flares but they didn’t see me and I was getting full radio, they just couldn’t hear me.”

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard Commander Jim George said he received notification that an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) had been activated from out to sea, 55 kilometres north east of the Wide Bay Bar.

The signal was sent from Mr Apps boat to satellite, which was detected by the Australian Search and Rescue in Canberra, which notified Hervey Bay Water Police.

Coast Guard Commander Jim George said the event was yet another demonstration of the readiness of the local volunteers who dedicate their time and efforts in maritime rescue.

“When police rang us they asked us to place a crew on standby and shortly after they confirmed that they wanted us to go out and assist,” Cmdr George said. “While that was going on, police dispatched two air-sea rescue helicopters to locate the source.

“The Coast Guard vessel left Tin Can Bay at 7.25pm for that position and helicopters in the meantime reported spotting the vessel from overhead but couldn’t make any communication. They remained hovering over the vessel until we arrived at about 10pm.”

After travelling out to sea for two-and-a-half hours, Coast Guard located Mr Apps’ 5.5 metre half-cabin fishing boat and towed the vessel back to Tin Can Bay.

“They were in trouble and had tried all the usual things to get assistance but couldn’t.

“An EPIRB is really strictly used for emergency situations but with nightfall approaching they had no choice but to activate it,” Cmdr George said.

“Without the EPIRB it would have taken a lot longer and the result could have been very different. It was still a very long day for our boat and crew.”

The Coast Guard rescue boat arrived back at their base at about 1am yesterday morning and Mr Apps had nothing but praise for the crew.

“It shows how important they are to boaties. It was a pretty quick response,” he said. “If the current was drifting in to shore I would have let the boat drift until I got phone service.”

Mr Apps and his wife Rebekah were planning on going fishing overnight but didn’t even get there. They got five miles from where they were going and decided to drift to get some bait however, the boat wouldn’t restart.

“It wasn’t do or die. We had just enough power for the radio and one anchor light. There was no way of getting hold of anyone so I had to activate the beacon.

“This has proven to me just how important it is to donate to the Coast Guard because they do these kinds of rescue operations with only the donations from the community and boaties,” Mr Apps said.

“I hope this story encourages people to donate because, like me, they will never know when they need the services of their local Coast Guard.”

Gympie Times

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