The eagle-eyed pilot rescued two men left floating in the Torres Strait is in line for one of the world’s most prestigious maritime awards.
The eagle-eyed pilot rescued two men left floating in the Torres Strait is in line for one of the world’s most prestigious maritime awards.

‘Owe him everything’: Huge coup for rescue pilot

THE eagle-eyed pilot of an oil tanker who led the incredible rescue of two men left floating in the Torres Strait after their boat capsized is in line for one of the world's most prestigious maritime awards.

Despite horrific weather conditions Ritesh Bhamaria managed to spot the waving arms of Warraber Island men Lui Tommy Billy, 37, and Abisolmon Bob, 47, from the deck of the MT Godam last December before the crew swung the huge vessel around in a narrow passage to collect them.

The pair had spent 16 hours clinging to a piece of wood before their miraculous rescue.

MT Godam pilot Ritesh Bhamaria with the survivors Abisolmon Bob, 47, and Lui Tommy Billy, 37.
MT Godam pilot Ritesh Bhamaria with the survivors Abisolmon Bob, 47, and Lui Tommy Billy, 37.

MORE NEWS

Jobs in pipeline as mine giants join forces

'Lot of stuff to do': Most of Cape York open

How online videos saved Weipa man from croc

Redlynch father of two Mr Bhamaria, who has more than 20 years' experience at sea, has now been nominated for the United Nations' International Maritime Organisation Bravery Award, which recognises the world's most incredible rescue efforts at sea.

He also recently took out India's National Maritime Day Gallantry Award and has been nominated for an Australian Bravery Award.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for any seafarer," he said of the Gallantry Award.

"I had seven nominations in my favour, which is incredible.

"And since the inception of the award this is the first time in Indian history that a maritime pilot has won it."

The rescue helicopter hovering over the MT Godam in the Torres Strait. Picture: Ritesh Bhamaria
The rescue helicopter hovering over the MT Godam in the Torres Strait. Picture: Ritesh Bhamaria

And he said even to get nominated for the UN award was "an exceptional thing".

One of the men he rescued, Mr Billy, said he remained in touch with Mr Bhamaria and was delighted he was being acknowledged.

"I owe him everything," he said.

Mr Billy was out fishing with his son Chris, 23, on Wednesday when he spoke to the Cairns Post and said they were heading to the same island where their boat sank last year, albeit with life jackets firmly on.

"I'm still doing the same thing, fishing," he said. "But I have to think smart these days."

One of the survivors Abisolmon Bob, 47, being walked by the crew on MT Godam in the Torres Strait. Picture: Ritesh Bhamaria
One of the survivors Abisolmon Bob, 47, being walked by the crew on MT Godam in the Torres Strait. Picture: Ritesh Bhamaria

Mr Bhamaria said the rescue would "stay in my mind forever".

"The biggest reward I have received was that I got those two people," he said.

"The next night after (the rescue) I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking of negative things, what if this operation had gone wrong.

"But if it happened again I would go for the rescue, come what may."

Barron River MP Craig Crawford, who nominated Mr Bhamaria for the Australian award, said the amazing feat "should be made into a movie".

Ritesh Bhamaria with his wife Rashmi. Picture: Stewart McLean
Ritesh Bhamaria with his wife Rashmi. Picture: Stewart McLean

"He definitely deserves recognition for this," he said.

"A lot of the decisions he had to make on the day were instinctive decisions.

"Had they lost sight of them completely, who knows, they may never have been found.

"But coming from an emergency services background myself, while the awards are great, knowing for the rest of your life there are two people walking around on Earth because of his decisions, that's more than any award."

Mr Crawford said Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had asked the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to consider Mr Bhamaria for its bravery award too.

Originally published as 'Owe him everything': Huge coup for Torres Strait rescue pilot



Teen’s hand cut in group fight near shopping centre

Premium Content Teen’s hand cut in group fight near shopping centre

There were reports of knives involved in the incident.

‘Bulls--t propaganda’: Albanese on housing, Greens in Rocky

Premium Content ‘Bulls--t propaganda’: Albanese on housing, Greens in Rocky

The Labor leader spoke about housing, workforce casualisation, the decline of real...

Man hit by car in North Rocky

Premium Content Man hit by car in North Rocky

He was taken to hospital with facial injuries and spinal precautions.