Safety equipment vital
The importance of modern safety equipment has been rammed home after a family of four on a fishing trip gone wrong were saved off the Ningaloo Coast last week.
The family had to be winched from their stricken vessel near Sandy Point as adverse weather conditions kept surface rescue crews out of action.
Matthew Neilsen, pilot-incharge with Bristow Helicopters Exmouth, and his crew were responsible for winching the family to safety. Mr Neilsen said the presence of a modern, registered beacon gave rescue crews exact details on where the boat was, who it was registered to, and its size.
He said this adherence to safety measures meant the rescue was over relatively quickly, taking just 35 minutes.
“I was just about to sit down for the afternoon and spend some time with my children when we got the call,” he said.
“It would have been a totally different outcome had we had to search because it was so late in the afternoon, and with failing light, they could have been out there overnight.
“With the swell building the way it was and the very strong winds and vicinity to the reef, we could have been having a very different conversation today.”
Mr Neilsen said the community could be grateful for oil companies in the area for making resources such as helicopters readily available.
Exmouth Marine Rescue commander Rusty Ellis said reaching the boat could have been tricky in the dark for his volunteers.
“Before our boys went too far out, we managed to get them back home safely,” he said.
“It was very much a happy ending and I’m very impressed with the way the whole thing came together.
“It was getting very close to dark by the time they winched them off the boat. By the time we’d made it there, it would have been pretty dark.”
Mr Ellis also gave credit to the four people who were rescued for having an EPIRB on board.
“It’s one of the most important safety features that any boating person can have on them these days,” he said.
Bristow Helicopters Exmouth pilot-in-charge Matt Neilson, right, with senior first officer Andrew Humphries, left, engineer Dan Summers, second left, and Matt Vermeulen, in the chopper, who was the wireman during the rescue.