Dapto fishermen shell-shocked after brush with death

Peter Trick, Peter Taylor, Darren Brumley, Les Davis, Henry Bandrowski and Don Inglis at Target to stock up on clothing and shoes after their boat went down in heavy seas off Yeppoon, Queensland. Picture: SHARYN O’NEILL, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin Bell Cay lies on her side in rough seas.
Nanjing Night Net

A group of Dapto fishermen rescued from a capsized boat in heavy seas off Yeppoon were yesterday coming to terms with their harrowing, mid-ocean brush with death.The 21 on board, many of whom come from the Dapto area, spoke of the startling moment their chartered vessel smashed into a reef 250km offshore, and the dramatic 16-hour rescue bid that followed.Happy to be firmly on dry land yesterday, the shell-shocked group of mates spent the morning calling family and friends to recount their horror ordeal before hitting the shops, some in bare feet, to replace their borrowed clothes. Boat capsizes: Dapto men survive ordealWollongong railway contractor Trevor Hicks said the 22m cruiser, Bell Cay, had headed out of Yeppoon into pleasant seas on Sunday, the men anticipating a good week of fishing and a few friendly drinks.But on Tuesday night the weather turned violent.The boat had anchored for the night at remote Swains Reef when howling, cyclonic winds of up to 90km/h struck, buffeting the Bell Cay and awakening the sleeping men on board.”It just blew up windy, all of a sudden the wind came up in the wrong direction, we pulled anchor and were swept onto the reef,” Mr Hicks said.”We didn’t get thrown out of bed, the captain woke us up and we all got out of bed, grabbed our mobile phones and our wallets and started to evacuate.”Forced to walk across the reef in 1m-deep water to reach a lifeboat, Mr Hicks said a number of the men received minor cuts to their legs but they all remained calm.Two emergency beacons had been activated and an SOS sent out over VHF radio frequencies. All the men could do now was wait.Mr Hicks said even then the gravity of the situation had not yet sunk in and the men passed the time making jokes.Two hours later a pair of fishing boats arrived and the men were taken on board the Impulse. “They gave us all dry clothes and a coffee,” Mr Hicks said.”Henry [Bandrowski] lost all his insulin on the boat and the rescue plane had to drop medication for him.”Unable to safely return the men to shore, the Impulse waited for eight hours while Queensland Water Police vessel Lyle M Hoey rushed to the scene, arriving at 3pm.The group of fishermen finally arrived back on dry land at 8.20pm on Thursday, shaken but thankful just to be alive.A few cold beers and a warm bed awaited them at their hotel.Despite their ordeal, the friends say they have not been deterred and are keen for the annual fishing trip to carry on for a 17th year in 2011.

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