The West

Wild sea rescue saves four but one missing
Wild sea rescue saves four but one missing

Update, 3.25pm: Hopes are fading for a 30-year-old man swept off rocks into treacherous waters off Denham about 30 hours ago.

Two boats, including a volunteer marine rescue boat and a commercial vessel searched the area today.

The boats resumed their search at 3.30am today.

Aircraft including a police helicopter, a local helicopter from Exmouth and the search and rescue Dornier 328 plane have stopped their search for the day.

Police said tomorrow’s search will involve one aircraft and one VMR vessel.

The man was in a group of five swept off rocks and out to sea about 15km south of Steep Point yesterday.

Rescuers yesterday said the other four men survived through an incredible feat of endurance, after five hours fighting heaving seas and strong winds.

The four men have thanked their rescuers as fears grow for their 30-year-old friend still missing in the treacherous waters.

In a statement, the fishermen said they were in good health and felt blessed and very grateful.

“We would like to express our extreme gratitude to the numerous individuals and organisations involved in our search and rescue, many of which are volunteer-based,” they said in a statement.

“We remain deeply concerned for our friend who is missing and our thoughts are with his family.

“Although we are sore and fatigued we are in good health and feel blessed and very grateful.

“We have put our loved ones through so much and ask for privacy at this time.

The rescue off Shark Bay yesterday came after king waves swept the men down a cliff into the cold, rough waters about 9.50am.

In terrible conditions, emergency service crews found the four men, including a 16-year-old, about 400m offshore.

Shark Bay volunteer sea rescue president Greg Ridgley said he was amazed at their resilience. "It was incredible. They were in the water five or six hours in six-metre seas," he said.

It is understood the men were camping on a fishing trip and include a father and son, an uncle and at least two male family friends.

The lost man was with at least seven other fishermen about 15km south of Steep Point when they were swept into the water.

One of the rescued fishermen arrives at Jandakot last night. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Three scrambled to safety within an hour and alerted the camp's ranger, who contacted emergency services in Denham about 11am.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service transported two men aged 45 and 30 suffering from exposure and multiple abrasions and injuries to Perth last night.

A second RFDS plane was expected to bring a 16-year-old and 49-year-old man, also suffering from exposure, to early this morning.

Local councillor Joe McLaughlin, who was involved in the rescue, said it took almost three hours to reach the isolated area. "It was bloody rough," he said.

Locals described the conditions as windy and overcast. The water was choppy with 3m to 3.5m swells and 35km/h winds with squalls.

Two of the men were able to climb on to the jetty at Denham unaided but the other two needed help. One had a bandaged cut to his head.

Mr Ridgley praised his volunteers who spent hours searching for the men.

"It was a full-on search and rescue that paid off because four lives have been saved," he said.

A local plane, police helicopter, the Useless Loop State Emergency Service, the Fisheries Department and a volunteer rescue vessel with medical staff joined the search.

Shire President Cheryl Cowell said the remoteness of the area and weather hampered the rescue. "Because the weather was so bad there weren't many commercial boats around," she said.

A police spokeswoman said the four men waved as the aircraft flew over until they were picked up about 2.45pm.

She said the men were "strong and capable".

Police said initial reports were they had mild hyperthermia and abrasions.

The Steep Point website says it is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage area and widely regarded as one of the world's best land-based game fishing areas.

The West Australian

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