The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked to rescue two people off a sinking boat in rough seas 6km southeast of Ballina and helped guide a Marine Rescue vessel (bright light in image) to the location.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked to rescue two people off a sinking boat in rough seas 6km southeast of Ballina and helped guide a Marine Rescue vessel (bright light in image) to the location.

'MAYDAY': Behind the scenes of frightening rescue at sea

RESCUE crews battled treacherous conditions to save two people from a boat that was sinking more than 6km out to sea from Ballina early this morning.

It is understood the vessel was travelling from Brisbane to Ballina when it started to sink in very rough 2.5m seas around 2am.

PHOTOS from the dramatic rescue

Marine Rescue volunteer Ian Grimwood was one of the four crew aboard the BA30, a 10m rigid-hull craft, who rescued the pair from the freezing ocean.

He said it all came down to everyone involved doing an incredible job.

Mr Grimwood said the crew - made up of Glenn Sanders, Phil Causley and Bill Ewen - was alerted to a mayday call at 02:10 this morning, which was shortly followed by an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon activation.

"In very rough conditions Glenn Sanders did an exceptional job getting us across the bar and 6.4km out and back in hazardous conditions," he said.

"We were alerted shortly after 2am and within 20 minutes were travelling across the bar to assist the crew of a 13.7m motor cruiser which took on water and began to sink bow first.

"We were guided by the EPIRB and the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter had spotted the people in the water and talked us into position via radio with wonderful support from our the tower crew including radio officer Tony Hensley and watch officer Ray Tennant."

He said the man and woman on board had collected two life rings, a fender, EPIRB and a mobile phone and life jackets.

"When we pulled them out they were in as good as health as they could be," he said.

"The Westpac Helicopter shepherded us to the Fawcett St wharf where an ambulance and police were waiting.

"It was really good example of interagency co-operation and worked perfectly."

Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service spokesman Jimmy Keough said they used night-vision and dropped a strobe light to help Marine Rescue locate the couple, whom he praised for being so well prepared.

"The man had a mobile in a waterproof case so while in the water he called triple-0 and NSW police who co-ordinated the job were in constant contact with him," Mr Keough said.

The Bureau of Meteorology said conditions on the Far North Coast this weekend will feature northeasterly winds 10 to 15, reaching 25 knots offshore in the evening with seas 1.5 to  2m.

On Sunday, northerly winds 20 to 30 knots turning west to northwesterly 10 to 15 knots during the afternoon with seas 2 to 3m with the chance of a thunderstorm.


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