Torres Strait rescue: Twelve people, including children, saved during night time ocean rescue
Twelve people, most of them children, were rescued from waters off Turnagain Island in the Torres Strait overnight after two boats got into difficulty while making a trip from Thursday Island to Saibai Island.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) coordinated the search after it detected an emergency beacon registered to a five-metre dingy in the vicinity of Turnagain Island about 9pm.
A helicopter was diverted to the scene by AMSA and located the first vessel which was taking on water and drifting towards a small island surrounded by crocodile-infested mangroves.
“We found a boat that had nine people on board that was bailing water. The people had rigged a makeshift sail and were luckily drifting into an island,” a rescue pilot said.
“We flew over to the island to illuminate the coastline for them. There was nothing else around for them to get to. They drifted into the island and landed in an estuary.”
The first rescue helicopter left the scene as it was running low on fuel while a second helicopter attended and winched a rescue swimmer down to the group.
The group advised rescuers there was a second dingy which had overturned with three people on board and they were still in the water.
According to AMSA a search was commenced immediately and a dingy with three people clinging to the hull was sighted in rough seas a short time later in the vicinity of Turnagain Island, about 37 kilometres from Sabai Island.
“We went out and searched and found the other people clinging to an overturned boat,” the pilot said.
“A Navy ship was nearby that was diverted and also a police vessel was on the scene to help coordinate that rescue too.”
Fortunately the three people from the overturned dingy were all wearing life jackets which contributed to their safe rescue, the AMSA said in a statement.
“It also helped that the beacon was correctly registered. From the beacon registration information, JRCC Australia was able to get early information about the number of boats and people to plan an appropriate rescue response,” the AMSA said.
Queensland Police confirmed there were multiple children involved in the incident, including an eight-year-old boy, all of whom were rescued and taken to family on Saibai Island.
The search and rescue mission included two rescue helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft, a police vessel and a Navy vessel. –