THANKS: Dave Burger, his family and the helicopter crew at Marcoola yesterday. Kate clifford
THANKS: Dave Burger, his family and the helicopter crew at Marcoola yesterday. Kate clifford AGL Action Rescue Helicopter

Fisherman says thanks to his rescuers

THERE are not many words a 44-year-old fisherman, whose mate is believed to have drowned, could say to the men who saved his life.

"It's good to see you, bud," just about sums it up though.

The Sunshine Coast-based AGL Action Rescue Helicopter rescued Dave Burger from a life raft after the prawn trawler he was skippering capsized off the Gold Coast at 2am on Wednesday.

His mate and fellow fisherman, 39-year-old Gavin Kelly, is believed to have drowned.

Mr Burger yesterday met with his four rescuers for the first time since the accident.

The skipper with 30-years experience thanked the men for ending the 10-hour nightmare, which he said he would never forget.

"It was just a normal night, the conditions were good, there were only 10-15 knot winds and about a metre swell," Mr Burger said.

"Gav and I were trawling along and I started doing one of my turns when about a min

ute into it we heard a loud bang. I turned to Gav and said, 'What was that?' He stood up to take a look and within five to 10 seconds the whole boat had capsized."

The prawn nets had snagged something on the ocean floor and flung the boat over.

Water rushed in through the wheelhouse, slamming the door on Mr Burger and slicing his head open.

Mr Kelly was believed to have washed off the deck.

"The last thing I remember trying to do was hold on to the throttle because I didn't want to end up in the front cabin," Mr Burger said.

"But with the water pressure and the door hitting me, I lost my grip, and that's where I ended up. I didn't know it then, but it was the best place for me to be."

A metre by metre pocket of air had been trapped in the front cabin. It was the lowest parts of the boat, right at the front, and there was only one way in and out. A life jacket was his only source of light in the darkness as the boat began sinking further.

"I just knew I had to get out of there, but the door that smashed off had actually closed the entrance," Mr Burger said.

"I started pushing life jackets under the door and I used a surfboard under the water to hold it up, which freed the opening and I managed to swim out."

It was then Mr Burger realised he had been underwater for two hours, saved only by the air pocket.

"I was just waiting for the boat to go down," he said.

"That was the scariest thing, knowing that it could just go like that."

The boat sunk four hours after Mr Burger's miraculous escape. With the sinking vessel, a life raft was deployed containing water, food, flares and an EPIRB, which Mr Burger set off about 10am.

Two hours later, the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter crew chief Tony Preston was winched down to rescue him.

Mr Burger said he was grateful to his rescuers and the work of the community rescue helicopter.

"Without these guys, I don't know where a lot of people would be," he said.''


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