Owner watches as boat explodes
STRANDED fisherman Alan O'Brien muttered the words "am I glad to see you characters'' to his rescuers after his burning power boat exploded and sank at the mouth of the Fitzroy River.
Mr O'Brien was yesterday on his way home to the Gold Coast after an unplanned overnight stay in Rockhampton.
On Tuesday afternoon he was found by the Coast Guard, sitting in the mud on Rundles Beach.
He had made it to shore in a small inflatable boat after abandoning his burning nine-metre (30-foot) vessel in the north passage of the river, about one nautical mile from Rundles Beach.
He had reportedly been running crab pots in the smaller boat, about 2.30pm, when he noticed smoke coming from the mother ship.
"He's seen black smoke coming up and by the time he got back, there was virtually nothing there,'' said Rockhampton Coast Guard skipper John Kowalski.
Mr O'Brien could only watch as his uninsured love sank to the bottom.
An electrical fault was believed responsible.
Once ashore, Mr O'Brien used his mobile phone to ring for help, which arrived about two hours later in the form of Rockhampton Coast Guard's rescue vessel, Fitzroy One.
Its skipper, Graham Best, said reaching Mr O'Brien was difficult due to it being low tide and a "big out''.
He recalled Mr O'Brien's first words to him.
"The first thing he said was 'am I glad to see you characters'.''
"He was sitting there pretty despondent on the water's edge.''
Yesterday Mr O'Brien, whose wife had driven to Rockhampton to pick him up, did not want to talk about his ordeal, only to say his rescuers were "fantastic''.
He said he had thanked them for their efforts.
"I'm sitting here contemplating the whole trip.''
Rockhampton Coast Guard is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation run by volunteers.