Jurien Bay sea rescue: Volunteers brave ‘horrendous’ conditions to save three men

Phoebe PinThe West Australian
VideoJurien Bay Sea Rescue

The two-person crew sent out into the storm to find a vessel in distress off the coast of Jurien Bay was almost about to call it a night when a flare lit up the flailing yacht.

A group of friends were on their way from Carnarvon to Perth in the skipper’s recently purchased 11.5m yacht when the trio hit bad weather in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The decision was made to head into the Jurien Bay marina to seek shelter, but the vessel ran out of fuel on the way.

Jurien Bay Volunteer Marine Rescue’s Mike Cockburn and Chrissy Heu received a call at about 1am that an EPIRB emergency device had been activated west of the marina.

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The pair spent the next two hours searching for the needle in the haystack that was the yacht and her crew, with 5m swells and 30 knot winds hampering their efforts.

Mr Cockburn said it was becoming too dangerous to be out at sea and he was about to turn the rescue vessel around when a flare pointed them in the direction of the stranded yacht.

As they approached, another flare lit up the boat and revealed two men being tossed around in a small raft about 4km offshore.

The skipper had remained on board the yacht to try and attract attention with the EPIRB’s strobe light.

The skipper had remained on board the yacht while two men sheltered in this raft for about two hours while awaiting rescue.
Camera IconThe skipper had remained on board the yacht while two men sheltered in this raft for about two hours while awaiting rescue. Credit: Phoebe Pin

Once safely back on dry land, the trio were conveyed to Jurien Bay Medical Centre where they were treated for hypothermia. They are now back in Perth with their families.

Mr Cockburn described the incident as the hardest rescue he has been involved with.

“The conditions were pretty horrendous,” he said.

“The second time that we went out around the back of the reef I almost called it then. If we had to stay out there any longer I was going to call it.”

Mr Cockburn said the group was surprisingly calm when their rescuers arrived.

“They were pretty happy to see us. They seemed quite calm they weren’t yelling and screaming,” he said.

Mike Cockburn said the crew were happy to see them.
Camera IconMike Cockburn said the crew were happy to see them. Credit: Phoebe Pin

“It was just two guys sitting in a life raft waiting for us to turn up.”

The yacht — which had to be abandoned during the rescue — washed up on shore along with the raft on Tuesday morning.

Mr Cockburn said it was impossible to know what would have happened to the group had he and Ms Hue not arrived when they did.

Jurien Bay police station officer in charge Sgt Kevin Bearcroft said the incident should send a clear message to seafarers to avoid risky behaviour when on the ocean.

“The message is pretty clear — as a skipper you are responsible for yourself, your crew and your vessel. You need to know your limitations,” he said

“You always need to take into account the weather forecast. They thought they could go around the storm, the storm was unfortunately too much for them.”

He praised the “courage” and “dedication” of Mr Cockburn and Ms Heu, saying it was due to their skill and bravery that no one was seriously injured in the incident.

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