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Yellow lifesaver to the rescue
Jim, 69 left, with his grandson Mitch, 12 with RAC crew Chris Oakes, left, St John Critical Care Paramedic, George Casey, winch operator and pilot Andy Greenall. Picture: John Mokrzycki/The West Australian

Four fishermen, including a 12-year-old boy, who were rescued after an hour clinging to their overturned dinghy off Garden Island, believe having a registered distress beacon saved their lives.

They have also urged other boaties to wear their lifejacket.

Jim, 69, son Greg, grandson Mitch and Greg's brother-in-law Sebastian, who didn't want their surnames used, were winched to safety by the rescue helicopter yesterday after Jim's 4.4m aluminium dinghy flipped when it was hit by a wave and threw them into the water.

The accident happened just after 7am, about an hour after they had headed out to fish north-west of Garden Island.

"It was quick, like a car accident," Jim said. "Life jackets and everything were floating around."

Mitch, 12, dived under the upturned dinghy to retrieve the emergency position indicating radio beacon - which was secured to the vessel - and they set it off and waited for help.

"This technology . . . it's brilliant," Jim said. "We didn't have to have an EPIRB (with us) because we weren't far enough offshore but we had it anyway, it was really good that it worked."

Water Police urged anyone heading out on the water to carry a GPS-enabled EPIRB, have it registered and let people know where they were heading and their time of return.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra alerted WA authorities and using the EPIRB's registration details, called Jim's home, where his wife was able to tell them where her husband had gone and who was on the boat.

The men put Mitch in the one lifejacket they were able to grab and sat him on top of the boat. They clung to it from different sides to try to keep it balanced.

They also salvaged some flares and set them off as rescue ser- vices rushed to the scene.

Mitch said he had been really scared, while his grandfather admitted the thought of sharks had crossed his mind.

The rescue helicopter airlifts the fishermen to safety.

Jim said he planned to go fishing again and if he could give others any advice apart from carrying a registered emergency beacon, it would be to wear their lifejacket.

He said they were grateful to the crew of the emergency rescue helicopter service.

Rescue helicopter pilot Andy Greenall said the group had done the right thing by staying with the boat and having a registered EPIRB but he also encouraged people to wear a lifejacket.