Fisherman crawled up into the mud flat like a crocodile

Carol Crear reunited with husband Steve after his miraculous survival after a boat sank off Port Alma.
Carol Crear reunited with husband Steve after his miraculous survival after a boat sank off Port Alma. Sharyn O'Neill

ONE of two fishermen whose boat sank near Port Alma on Thursday night had to "crawl up the bank like a crocodile".

After making land, Steve Crear had to then cover himself with mud for two nights to keep the mosquitoes from stinging him.

"They were relentless, so I covered myself each night with mud to try and keep them and a heap of other bugs off me," Mr Crear said.

Talking from his Rockhampton home yesterday with his wife, Carol, by his side, Mr Crear was reliving his ordeal but was thankful he had made it back home safely.

A born and bred Rocky boy, Mr Crear, 60, was an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1970s and '80s.

A Queensland State and Australian national representative back, he played his club football in the Brisbane Rugby League for Western Suburbs and Redcliffe, as well as elsewhere in Queensland for Rockhampton and Gatton.

In 1971 he was first selected to represent Queensland against NSW.

Mr Crear had gone fishing with his long-time mate "Mick" in a bid to catch some mudcrabs before their 38-foot boat got into trouble and sank.

"I remember waking up and saw the tinny that we were towing was gone," Mr Crear said.

"It was night and several hours must have passed and we had taken on water for whatever reason because the boat began to list before rolling over and sinking."

The two men were able to get clear of their boat and clung to a single esky lid.

"It was night and so it was dark and we couldn't see, and the waves and the wind was whipping us about," Mr Crear said.

"And we had to fight hard to cling to that esky lid, and a couple of times it was snatched off us by the wind and waves.

"But we fought and got it back again until one big wave washed 'Mick' off the lid and he was gone - I never saw him again."

After being in the water for a couple of hours, luckily the tide was running out and this helped Mr Crear get to land.

"When I finally got to land I had to crawl and drag myself up the bank like a crocodile," Mr Crear said.

"Once I was ashore I found myself behind the mangroves in Shelley Creek.

"I was physically exhausted by this stage as well as being emotionally spent as well because I was worrying about Mick and wondering if I could have done more to grab on to him and keep him with me.

"But the water and waves were just too strong and it was all I could do to swim for shore and then finally drag myself up onto the mud flat."

Mr Crear spent all day Friday and Friday night behind the mangroves in Shelley Creek.

"It was amazing the amount of rope and debris surrounding me, and at one stage I was contemplating strapping it all together to make a raft and head off looking for help," Mr Crear said.

"And a couple of items of ours had washed up on to shore from the boat, one of them being a red plastic milk crate.

"I strapped the crate to a long pole and waved it as high as I could when I saw passing boats but they could not see me - there was a total of four boats that I saw but I must have been down too low for them to see me."

He used the crate to sit on during the day and at night he covered himself with the mud and a sheet of plastic he found to protect himself from the pouring rain.

And the reason he was finally found was that he had hung a drum up in the mangroves and one of his rescuers had spotted it as they were patrolling the creek and yelled out. Mr Crear yelled back and he was found.

A paramedic who was on board the rescue boat treated Mr Crear for a number of bites, cuts and bruises and gave him much-needed water.

When the pair set out on Wednesday the weather was perfect - a beautiful calm day.

"It was a glorious day when we set out on Wednesday to try and catch some crabs," Mr Crear said.

"We were due to stop some distance from Port Alma but Mick decided to push on through the night and to get to Port Alma.

"But after making it some way along the Casuarina Passage we decided to stop and have a sleep and start out early the next morning.

"But during the night the weather turned nasty and we lost the boat then we were on our own.

"But I am hoping Mick is safe somewhere and he will be found.

"I am in constant contact with his daughter and the police. We are still hoping he has pulled through and is just waiting to be found."

Police are still continuing the search for Mr Crear's mate and will continue to do so for the time being.

"The Yeppoon Water Police are presently continuing the search," Inspector Darren Somerville from the Rockhampton Police said yesterday.

Topics:  editors picks fisherman police port alma

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