Four rescued from stricken fishing vessel

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter 23 responded to an emergency signal off Bengunnu Point on the weekend.

On Saturday, July 7 a three-man crew responded to a stricken fishing trawler that had hit rocks.

Emergency services received a May Day radio call, as well as an activated Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, about 6.20am.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter chief executive officer Stephen Leahy said the crew responded alongside a Toll Ambulance Helicopter from Canberra.

“We arrived on scene around the same time as the Toll helicopter at about 7.20am,” he said.

“We located a trawler in the water just south of Bengunnu Point. A life raft was located on the beach, and there were four men on board.

“We landed on the beach, as did the ambulance helicopter. All four men were checked by our crews; there were no injuries, but they were suffering from mild hypothermia.

“The decision was made to transport them to Bermagui, where they could be further checked by local paramedics.”

Mr Leahy said Toll Ambulance also flew two people to Bermagui. Life Saver 23 was then sent back to the site by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

“They [AMSA] had us confirm the exact latitude and longitude, and we checked for debris and pollution. The distress beacon was also still active,” Mr Leahy said. 

“We winched our rescue crewman onto the beach with some detection equipment. We could still hear the beacon, and it’s fairly obvious it’s still aboard the vessel.

“I had discussions with AMSA and Marine Area Command, and we all agreed it was too dangerous to winch our rescue crew officer on to the boat to locate the beacon. AMSA will look at further options to isolate that beacon.”

The trawler left a large amount of debris. Mr Leahy reported fishing tubs, a life ring and large amounts of hosing in the water, as well as the abandoned life raft and clothing on the beach. 

Lifesaver 23 has located the trawler’s fishing nets in deeper water off the coast.