BE SMART: Ian Hunt from the Mooloolaba Coastguard reminds people about the importance of carrying an EPIRB while on the water.
BE SMART: Ian Hunt from the Mooloolaba Coastguard reminds people about the importance of carrying an EPIRB while on the water. Warren Lynam

Emergency beacon saved two lives in Moreton Bay capsizing

IF the men rescued from waters off Moreton Bay on Saturday had not activated an emergency beacon after their boat capsized, rescuers would have been searching for three bodies.

Rescue 500 crew officer David Turnbull doesn't mince his words when it comes to emphasizing the importance of EPIRBs (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon).

Mr Turnbull was among the crew tasked to assist three men who were left clinging to an esky and an inflatable ball with the EPIRB attached to it after two freak waves knocked off the 5.6 metre fishing boat's engine and then capsized the vessel.

A 57-year-old Beachmere man died and his 24-year-old son and a 30-year-old friend were airlifted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital suffering hypothermia.

The men were in the water for between 90 minutes to two hours and rescuers believe the older man had succumbed to the elements about half an hour before rescuers arrived.

WE SAY: Be serious on boat safety, take beacon, life jackets

Mr Turnbull said the EPIRB had saved the younger men's lives.

"Those people had no lifejackets on, all they had on was a pair of board shorts and in overcast conditions it is really hard to see people in the water when there is just a head poking out," he said.

"Without that beacon, for that particular case, it would have been a needle in a haystack type of job.

"Those beacons are like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

Having a 406MHz digital EPIRB on board is required by Maritime Safety Queensland for any vessel that travels more than two nautical miles out to sea, regardless of whether it had an engine or was registered.

However, Mr Turnbull said it was equally as important to also register details free of charge with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to assist rescue crews to better prepare if they were tasked to rescue you.

"In the case on Saturday, they had an older style unregistered beacon and there was no information attached to that serial number," he said.

"Information such as the size of the boat helps us and other rescue agencies with things like configuring our helicopters.

"Also when we are out, we know we are looking for a 5.6 metre boat and can disregard other trawlers and vessels in the vicinity."

Thinking of ways to make your EPIRB easily accessible in case of an emergency was also important to consider.

Mr Turnbull said although one of the men rescued on Saturday had to dive into the upturned cabin to retrieve their EPIRB, they had the foresight to attach it to a floating white buoy, which not only provided them with a flotation device, but also kept the beacon in close proximity and served as a visual marker for rescuers from the air.

"Although they had only bought the boat the day before, we felt they weren't complete novices and had experience in fishing," Mr Turnbull said.

"In boating sometimes these tragic circumstances occur but there is no doubt that without the beacon we would have had three bodies instead of the one."

A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said boaties should consider buying and registering an EPIRB regardless of where they were boating.

From September 15, you will be able to carry a printed copy of your email registration, or keep an SMS confirmation on your phone or request a copy be sent to you by post.

"A registered beacon allows AMSA Search and Rescue to phone your emergency contacts and look up important information to start a response as soon as possible," the spokesperson said.

"If it's not registered, there might be delays in the rescue response."

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