Man rescued after 22-hour lake ordeal

By MICHAEL PEMBROKE

FOLLOWING a long, cold night, a 71-year-old man missing on Lake Maraboon was rescued yesterday morning by fellow boaties. Ron O'Connell, from Mudgeeraba, had spent 22 hours floating in the water when he was found around 8am.

He had been fishing at Lake Maraboon on Wednesday morning and when he failed to return late that night, a search was launched.

Police and SES crews searched the lake until 2.30am after finding the man's Nissan Nivara utility near the boat ramp.

Mr O'Connell said he had been chasing redclaw around 8.30am Wednesday when his aluminium dingy suddenly lurched backward and then began to tip over.

"The water had been calm and good, not a problem,'' Mr O'Connell said.

"Then it just came up from nowhere.''

Mr O'Connell spent the rest of the day in the water waiting for someone to pass. "A few people went past within 150 metres of me and I called out but they didn't hear,'' he said.

Mr O'Connell was able to stay afloat by clutching to a nearby tree, enabling him to keep his torso out of the water.

"I spent the night in the fork of a tree,'' he said.

"It was actually that cold this morning I got in the water. "It was warmer in the water than it was in the fork of the tree. The water was 20 degrees.''

The overnight minimum temperature in Emerald was 17 degrees. He also tied his dingy to the same tree.

Mr O'Connell said he spent most his time floating, thinking "is anyone going to pull up here'' but no-one did.

"No-one saw me where I was so I shifted over 100 metres and gave this guy a 'hoy' and he came and got me,'' he said.

His rescuers were a couple holidaying from Capalaba, who had also been out fishing for redclaw.

Ian and Terry McPherson said they had moved over to the area as it was calmer and they "were getting sick of being battered by the bad weather''.

"We didn't even know he was missing,'' Mr McPherson said. "We hit the water about 5.30am this morning.

"We heard a voice calling out and high tailed it to where the voice was.''

Mrs McPherson said they found Mr O'Connell in the water, waving his float, which was what caught their attention. After his rescuers had located him, the hardest part was getting him into the boat.

Mr O'Connell said he had climbed up a tree to get in the boat, but he couldn't get in as his "legs couldn't lift'' after being in the water for so long.

"So I just went in turtle over the side,'' he said.

The rescuers said they were amazed how long he had been in the water.

And as for being called life savers, Mr McPherson said he was "a little embarassed about it really''.

"Everyone would do exactly the same thing,'' he said. "Who would leave a man to drown?

"It's not about heroics, it's just good luck.'' After Wednesday's adventures, Mr O'Connell said he was going to have a 'holiday' yesterday, draining his boat and the motor.

"A lot of it (how the boat capsised) may have been my own fault, but I'm not sure,'' he said. "I hope my mates back home don't find out.



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