Three men rescued from the sea off Otago Peninsula yesterday
are lucky to be alive.
While searchers scoured the wrong side of Otago Peninsula, a
passing vessel noticed them and their capsized boat. The trio
were fishing from a 5.5m aluminium pontoon boat off Cape
Saunders about 9.30am in calm weather when two ''freak''
waves swamped the boat, capsizing it.
Search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Brian Benn
said the outcome could have been much worse for the trio -
who were wet, shaken, but otherwise all right - had they not
been noticed and rescued by a passing boat crew.
''They were in the water for about 30 minutes. Now that's
getting to the stage where hypothermia is going to start
taking lives,'' Snr Sgt Benn said.
''A couple of things saved their lives. One, they were
wearing life jackets and two, the passing boat that picked
One of the passengers, Markus (who declined to give his
surname), from Austria, but who has lived in Dunedin since
2008, said he was relieved to be alive after fearing he would
''[I] just [feel] good to be alive to be honest, because we
obviously thought for a while it's not going to work out.''
One of the scariest moments was when fellow passenger Markus
Hofer, visiting from Austria, went missing under the boat.
''We couldn't find him, and luckily he started yelling out
for us and he was under the boat.''
Fortunately, he managed to dive out from under the boat. The
skipper and owner of the capsized boat, John King, said the
incident showed no matter how prepared you were, things could
go wrong on the water.
''No-one is allowed on this boat without a life jacket. I am
more safety-conscious than anyone else I know and then this
happens,'' Mr King said.
He wanted to thank those who plucked the trio from the water,
the coastguard for towing his boat to Back Beach, Port
Chalmers, and everyone who then helped right the boat.
''It's definitely a freaky feeling being out in the middle of
the ocean with an upside-down boat. We tried righting it when
we were out there, but we couldn't.''
Mr King's wife, Anne-Marie King, who greeted her husband when
he came ashore, said he would be ''grounded''.
''He is not allowed to be on the boat for a long time. I am
just so glad everybody is all right, because it could have
been so much the other way,'' she said.
The skipper of the boat that came across the three in the
water, Rob Crawford, said he just happened to be heading to
Cape Saunders to fish when they saw the upturned hull.
''They are just lucky, that's all.''
Snr Sgt Benn said a search was sparked before the three were
rescued, after two fishermen who witnessed the capsize from
the shore raised the alarm.
However, language difficulties meant search and rescue
personnel had difficulty pinpointing the location, which
meant initially they were searching on the harbour side of
One message other boat users could take from the incident
was: ''If you are not wearing it, you haven't got it.''
''They were wearing their life jackets, so they survived.
They weren't wearing their communications equipment ... so
when the incident happened in a flash they lost their ability
to communicate,'' Snr Sgt Benn said.
There were some radio black-spots in the area close to the
coast near Cape Saunders and funds were being sought for a
new radio repeater to improve communications along that
section of coast, he said.