Plucked to safety

FOUR men and a woman were plucked to safety in a dramatic sea rescue off Coffs Harbour yesterday morning.

They told water police their six-metre aluminium motorcat appropriately named Real Humdinger may have hit a whale, causing the boat to tip on its side and hurl them into the drink, where they remained for about half an hour.

Several whales were seen in the area, and it is understood the group has discounted swell as the cause of the mishap because of the flat conditions.

Somehow, the empty motorcat became upright again and lurched out of control in a haphazard arc.

"They were lucky someone didn't bash their head when they were thrown over. They were also lucky the boat didn't come back and run them over," Sergeant Don Stewart said.

Real Humdinger logged on with Coffs Harbour Coastal Patrol at 6.37am as the group left the harbour boat ramp for a fishing expedition in ideal conditions.

But only 18 minutes later, coastal patrol divisional commander Linda Jones took a call from Sydney Water Police.

They had a report of a boat near Korffs Islet (Pig Island) with no-one aboard travelling at 20 knots in a circle.

Mrs Jones put out a call to all boats in the area to look for people in the water.

At 7.10am, a runabout rang in to say they had found five people in the water south of the islet and all were accounted for.

That vessel brought three of them to the boat ramp, with the other two coming ashore on another craft.

Ambulance officers checked their well-being, and apart from feeling cold and one of them having a finger cut, they were in good shape.

Water police aboard the launch Fearless, and an inflatable, dashed from the marina at 8.15am to rein in the runaway boat, which was now just east of the harbour entrance.

Senior Constable Gordon Prewett, who is trained in high-speed boardings, had a run at the boat on his own.

He returned to Fearless, driven by Senior Constable Mick Logan, to collect Sgt Stewart, who jumped on the motorcat, took over the controls and took it back to the boat ramp.
Sgt Stewart said the motorcat had sustained no damage.

The Coffs Harbour family involved in the incident declined an Advocate interview.

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