Three people were rescued after their boat overturned 1.5 nautical miles south-east of Tweed Heads last night in what proved a busy weekend for rescue services.
The three were left clinging to the hull of their 6 metre vessel but were able to activate an emergency beacon, triggering a major search involving the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, Marine Rescue NSW and the Queensland Water Police.
The rescue helicopter located the vessel but was unable to winch the people to safety because of heavy swells and seas.
A volunteer crew from Marine Rescue Point Danger responded on Point Danger 30, retrieving the three people from the hull of the upturned boat, while the helicopter lit up the scene with a spotlight.
They were transported to the Tweed Heads Pumping Station Jetty in the Tweed River, arriving about 11pm, where they were met by NSW Ambulance paramedics.
It was the second EPIRB activation in the region yesterday, with another three people rescued mid-morning when their 6m tinnie was swamped by waves, causing it to capsize 13 nautical miles south-east of Tweed Heads.
A local fishing vessel was first on scene and retrieved the three before they were transferred to PD 30 and transported back to the Tweed River for medical checks.
Marine Rescue NSW Northern Rivers Regional Controller Stephen Reading said the vessel that capsized last night had washed up on Fingal Beach just south of the pumping jetty.
“The three people on board the boat have been through a traumatic experience in the dark and cold and were immensely relieved to see the rescue crews arrive,” he said.
“This emergency could have had a far worse outcome but they are incredibly fortunate that our rescue agencies are trained and equipped to the highest standards and to respond swiftly and professionally when people are in need.
“These three were not wearing lifejackets but they did manage to activate their EPIRB. I again urge everyone on board a boat to always wear a lifejacket whenever you are on the water.”
Mr Reading congratulated the crew of PD 30, Rick Snow, Neil Swift and Chris Ingal, supported by radio operators John Hurdley, Les Green and watch officer Phil Pickering, for their skill in retrieving the boaters from open waters in the dark.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter said it had been an unusually busy weekend for the helicopter crew.
‘The helicopter was tasked to perform two primary, five secondary and a search missions.
Six of the missions were performed on the weekend alone, along with three training flights in the past week.
On Saturday, the helicopter was tasked to Woodenbong for an adult male trail bike rider who had fallen from his bike at high speed.
The helicopter was met by with road ambulance at Woodenbong Oval where the patient was stabilised and placed aboard the aircraft to be transported to Lismore Base Hospital.
Later, the helicopter flew to Mount Warning for an adult male with suspected broken ankle and a knee injury following a fall.
A medical team was winched into the location, stabilised the patient on scene and a winch recovery performed.
The man was transported to Lismore Base Hospital in a stable condition.