A man who drowned during a fishing trip with his son and a friend south of Sydney was “caught out by the waves” when their boat capsized, police say.
The father and son, aged 73 and 47, were fishing with a 61-year-old man at Cape Solander, off Kurnell, when the boat was filled by water on Friday morning.
The two younger men were able to swim to shore and raise the alarm, but by the time the father had been found during a major search operation he was unconscious and couldn’t be saved.
NSW Police Inspector Darren Wood, the search and rescue controller for the Marine Area Command, said the father spent at least 20 minutes in the water.
“There is swell out there which is breaking on the rocks, which would have caused the vessel to capsize when it came too close to a rock shelf,” he told reporters on Friday.
“They were fishing at the time and have just been caught out by the waves.”
Police believe the three were not wearing life jackets and are checking whether alcohol played any role in the tragedy.
One of the survivors suffered a major injury to a hand, possibly a severed thumb, while the other escaped with minor injuries. Both are being interviewed in hospital.
The search operation involved police, surf life savers and three helicopters.
Inspector Wood urged all boating enthusiasts to wear life jackets.
“It is your best chance of survival should you be thrown into the water,” he said.
“Additionally, we’d encourage all boaters to understand the conditions and understand where the reefs are and have some local knowledge of where they’re fishing.”
Police are investigating the mens’ level of experience but Insp Wood wasn’t able to say whether they had been booked for anything in the past.
Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce said the incident was a tragic reminder of the importance of safety on the water.
“If you’re going to be out on the water, check the conditions, bring along the correct safety gear, let others know your plans, and log in with the relevant water safety agency,” he said in a statement.
“What this incident does reinforce is the need to wear life jackets when undertaking any recreational activity including boating.”