A humble Esky has helped rescuers find two missing fishermen whose tinny capsized in precarious waters off central Queensland.
Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service crewman Shaun Pearce said the men’s boat capsized off the coast of Stanage Bay, about 175 kilometres north of Rockhampton, late Tuesday night.
“They were in the water clinging to the hull of the boat for about 13 hours,” he said.
“Then daylight came this morning and they realised the tide was bringing them back towards Quail Island.”
Mr Pearce said his team was notified of the emergency, after one of the fishermen called a friend in Mount Isa from the tinny in distress.
The rescue crew reached Stanage Bay at first light this morning and searched for hours, but couldn’t find any trace of the pair.
They were about to turn back to refuel when Mr Pearce spotted a blue Esky floating in the water near a group of tiny islands.
“It looked a little bit suspect and a bit out of the ordinary,” he said.
“On low approach, we had a look … and came to the conclusion, that it has probably come from that boat.”
The crew then decided to fly closer to Quail Island, where they spotted the tinny washed up against the rocks.
“The boat was being smacked up against the rocks pretty hard,” Mr Pearce said.
“There was no sign of life at that stage.
“We could see a lot of debris around the boat … life jackets, Esky lids and that sort of stuff.”
‘It could have been a lot worse’
As the helicopter flew around the island, suddenly two “madly waving” figures appeared.
“They were standing up at the time waving quite vigorously and obviously very pleased to see us,” Mr Pearce said.
“One of the guys had a lot of cuts.
“He was quite badly cut up on his legs, arms, knees, toes. Everything.
“There was a lot of visible blood. The other guy wasn’t too bad.”
The crew winched the duo up into the helicopter within 10 minutes.
“They were quite visibly shaken,” Mr Pearce said.
“They were obviously cold, very thirsty.
“They couldn’t even open the water bottle we’d given them, their hands were that badly cut.
“They were very dehydrated.”
The two men, believed to be aged in their 40s, were flown to Rockhampton’s hospital in a stable condition.
Mr Pearce said it had been a rewarding mission and he was very happy he had spotted the lone blue esky.
“That sparked things that we may have been getting close to them. So what a good old esky,” he said.
“It could have been a lot worse.”