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RS Sailing 728x90

Port Stephens survivor tells- The RIGHT EPIRB might save your life

by Connexion PR on 25 Sep 2012
Having a GPS enabled EPIRB which is registered with AMSA could save your life SW
This is a story about fishing boats, not sailing boats, but the lessons that Port Stephens-based Tony Egeberg says he's learnt is relevant for all who go to the sea in boats. In short, wear a life jacket, carry a GPS enabled EPIRB and REGISTER IT! Tony is a very lucky man. As are the four people who were aboard his fishing boat when it overturned 50 km out from Port Stephens in March this year. Read on for how they survived.

All five men found themselves in the water clinging to their upturned 6.5m fishing boat.

Had a series of events not clicked into place, all five would have died. Fortunately Tony Egeberg is fishing again, wiser for the experience, but he also has a story to tell in the hope that others won’t make the same mistakes that he made. Tony now has a number of quality Kannad GPS enabled EPIRBs and PLBs and is back on the water fishing.

Tony and his mates did not have much luck fishing for Marlin off Port Stephens on a Sunday afternoon in March. The crew were packing up their gear as the skipper headed for port at about 12 km/h with waves between 2.5m and 3m rolling through from astern.

It was a much bigger wave which came through, picked up the back of the boat and tipped it over as the hull broached. Two of the crew were thrown into the water, three (including Tony) found themselves underneath the upturned boat. Tony Egeberg, a non swimmer, was the only one wearing a PFD.

As the hull settled, one of Tony’s mates swam out. Tony had the presence of mind to push his other mate down and under the hull so he could get to the surface. Tony then grappled under water with the console mounted EPIRB (non Kannad) to rip it off the mounting bracket. After two attempts and with the air pocket in the hull now empty, Tony kicked his way from the submerged hull grabbing a length of rope on his way through to the surface.

The hull rolled over at 3:54 pm and the 406 EPIRB was activated at 3:56 pm. With the five anglers clinging to the upturned hull, Tony’s expectation was that a rescue helicopter would be overhead in about 90 minutes.

At AMSA the EPIRB signal was received from the first satellite to pass over, indicating that an EPIRB had been activated either off Port Stephens or of Adelaide. The signal coming in was of an EPIRB that had not been registered with AMSA so they had no way of making contact with the owner or family.

Fortunately for Tony Egeberg a commercial aircraft flying over Port Stephens picked up the distress signal and relayed the information to AMSA who scrambled a rescue chopper.

Two hours and ten minutes after the EPIRB was activated, Tony and his mates heard a helicopter. With no accurate reference point to home in on, the Westpac Rescue was flying a grid search pattern and on the fourth pass the stricken men were found clinging to their upturned hull.

'We made several vital mistakes,' Tony Egeberg recounted after his ordeal.

'First was that I had an EPIRB that was not GPS capable. The 406 EPIRB was okay, but a GPS capable EPIRB would have given our rescuers a location accurate to a few meters of our position.'

'Second, my EPIRB was not registered with AMSA. Had I done so, the rescue authorities could have contacted my family and confirmed that we were fishing off Port Stephens.'

Having learnt the lessons the hard way, Tony Egeberg is certainly wiser for the experience. His insurance company has replaced his boat which is now on the bottom of the ocean. And he has a Kannad Marine Sport Plus EPIRB which is GPS enabled. He also has a Kannad PLB, Solo GPS enabled PLB for himself and each person who goes fishing with him. And all the beacons are registered with AMSA.

'When we heard of Tony’s Egeberg’s ordeal we decided to assist as best we could,' said Mark Barker, MD of the Survitec Group, Australian distributors of the Kannad range of EPIRBs and PLBs.

'At the Survitec Group we cannot emphasise enough the need to have quality safety equipment on board, properly serviced and in the case of beacons, we recommend GPS enabled units, as AMSA do, to really assist Search and Rescue in accurately locating a person in distress quickly.

'Tony and his mates are all very lucky to be alive. If they are unlucky enough to have another problem at sea, at least with their new GPS enabled beacons a rescue will be much swifter.'

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