Thursday, March 12, 2009

Luck saves sailor James Palmer from Cyclone Hamish

"My name is James." After 25 hours floating at sea, these were the only words relieved deckhand James Palmer could muster for his rescuers. In a true miracle, the 20-year-old fisherman survived mountainous swells whipped up by Cyclone Hamish after both his boat and life raft capsized. In desperation he grabbed what he thought was a stick, which in an amazing stroke of luck turned out to be an emergency distress beacon. But grave fears were last night held for his uncle, trawler skipper Russell Palmer, and crewmate Tony Tyndall, who both remained missing last night. The three fishermen were aboard Hervey Bay-based trawler MBC which capsized on Swains Reef, where they had anchored to ride out the cyclone. However, the trawler rolled on Monday morning after apparently being pounded by a huge wave. While Russell Palmer stayed with the boat, his nephew and Mr Tyndall took to a life raft which also capsized. After being separated from his crewmates, James Palmer drifted alone through wild seas and pitch darkness before he was finally rescued about 9.40am (AEST) yesterday.
Luck on his side ... James Palmer has been rescued after floating in high seas for 25 hours.
He swam to rescue helicopter crewmen from a life raft which had been dropped to him by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority aircraft. His remarkable survival stunned rescuers from the RACQ-Central Queensland helicopter service. "He relayed to us that he had an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) in the life raft with him, but when they rolled he lost control of the (device)," crewman Darren Bobin said yesterday. "The amazing thing is as he was drifting throughout that night what he thought was a stick drifting with him was actually an EPIRB that he grabbed and turned on. "It was the one that we tracked (to find him)." In Hervey Bay's fishing community, the joy of Mr Palmer's rescue was tempered by fears that his uncle and father-of-four Mr Tyndall had perished. Last night, Mr Tyndall's mother, Valerie, said she was glad Mr Palmer had been saved but admitted that hopes her son and his friend would be found alive were fading.

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