Lessons Learnt: Overboard as night falls
18 June 2019
A man thrown from his moving vessel "should buy a lotto ticket" say rescuers, after he was spotted in distress by fishermen on land operating a camera drone.
Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) Mornington report that the fishermen thought they had seen something odd, so flew their drone nearly 1 km out to sea and called 000 when they saw the man in the water.
Victoria Police then called in the VMR unit to help with the incident near Mount Martha, as it was approaching dusk on 7 June.
The rescue crew arrived on the scene and retrieved a 49-year-old male from the water - he said he had been thrown out of his 14-foot tinny after "hitting an object".
Thankfully he was not injured and was able to inflate his lifejacket when he hit the water, and he was spotted before it got dark. By chance, the rescue crew had been very close by attending to a breakdown – so reached the man before he had spent too long in the very cold water.
Rescuers checked him over and then stopped his vessel - which had a 40hp motor going flat out in a very tight circle.
The crew then took the man back to Safety Beach.
VMR Mornington skipper Tim Warner said: "We usually attend at least one of these incidents a year.
"His lifejacket definitely saved his life, as the air was really chilling down and it was just on dark.
"The guy should buy a Tatts ticket as everything went his way when he was thrown out."
Pictured above: A camera drone.
When a person falls into water less than 15°C the first reflex is to gasp and then hyperventilate, during which it is extremely difficult to hold breath.
The heartbeat may become very fast and irregular during this time. There is a high danger of drowning if the head is not kept above water. It may take several minutes to regain control of breathing and be able to climb back aboard if this remains possible.
Strength and coordination weaken quickly in cold water, typically in 10-15 minutes, so it is important to inflate lifejackets and rafts, and set off distress beacons quickly for the best chance of survival and rescue.
If you fall into cold Victorian waters, you will generally have:
- 1 minute to get your breathing under control and keep your head out of the water
- 10-20 minutes of useful movement in which to get out of the water to prepare for rescue
- 1 to 3 hours before you become unconscious due to hypothermia.
If boating solo you are more at risk of getting in trouble with no one around to help, so it's a good idea to:
- Wear a lifejacket at all times in an open area of your vessel
- Carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) on your person, in addition to an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) onboard
- Use a kill switch on your boat so that if you do fall overboard, your engine will cut out. Ensure the lanyard is in good condition so it won't snap if you fall.
For more safety advice, visit the Prepare to survive website
Pictured below: A rescue demonstration.