Rescuers too late to save fishermans dog
Towed back: The rescued man's boat. Picture: Alex Masey/The West Australian

The rescue helicopter came a few minutes too late for the heartbroken fisherman perched precariously on his sinking boat.

After spending 20 hours in the water 16km off Mandurah, his beloved pet rottweiler had drowned just before help arrived.

The 50-year-old Ballajura man had been pulling in lobster pots before his 12-foot boat capsized about 3pm on Tuesday.

The rescue was the second of its kind in seven days after three men spent 14 hours adrift when their boat sank off Fremantle last week.

The man and his three-year-old rottweiler set off from a Falcon boat ramp on Tuesday morning and had been on the water about six hours when, for reasons still unknown, the boat overturned off the Dawesville Cut.

It is understood the man, who was not wearing a lifejacket, set off flares and attempted to activate an EPIRB but his calls for assistance went unanswered.

It was not until yesterday morning that neighbours grew suspicious when he had not returned to his home. They travelled to Falcon and found his car and trailer unattended and contacted police immediately.

As the search started about 10.30am, the man activated a second, more modern 406 EPIRB and another flare.

The police airwing spotted the flare's orange smoke and sought assistance from the Westpac Surf Life Saving WA helicopter.

Helicopter chief crewman Scott Hardstaff said he first spotted the stark orange smoke residue hovering a foot off the water. The man appeared calm but forlorn, Mr Hardstaff said. His dog was floating lifeless just 30m away.

"(He saw us) and stayed sitting there, we gave him a wave and he waved back," Mr Hardstaff said.

Within minutes the fisherman clambered aboard the police vessel and was taken to Peel Water Police headquarters in Mandurah, where he was reunited with family. Sen. Const. Ian Davison said considering the man had been in the water overnight he was surprisingly fit and well but his dog's death had taken its toll on him.

"He is a very reserved man from what I can make of him and he is certainly very stoic," he said.

"For a man who has been through what he has he was very collected, very calm and I've a lot of admiration for him. He was obviously concerned for his dog but he was very composed and very together and very calm."

Mandurah Water Rescue Group commander Barry Walton said it was essential people logged on with their local volunteer marine group to ensure someone knew their intended destination and approximate return time.

The West Australian

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