Swimmers saved by boater

The fish cleaning pontoon at Merimbula.
The fish cleaning pontoon at Merimbula.

Four swimmers had a lucky escape when they were caught in the strong outgoing tide while trying to cross the channel at Merimbula. They had tried to cross from Spencer Park to the sand bar on the Main Beach side but had underestimated the strength of the outgoing tide.

But for the prompt actions of a visiting fisherman in his boat at the fish cleaning pontoon, the results could have been much more serious.

At around 11.30am on Saturday, April 10 a visiting boater at the fish cleaning pontoon heard calls for help coming from swimmers in the channel and also from people on the shore.

He promptly unhooked from the pontoon and pulled out into the channel, calling the Marine Rescue base on channel 73 as he went to investigate.

Roger Barson from Merimbula Marine Rescue said the boater found three swimmers in distress, plus one person who had apparently made it to the sandbank edge on the Main Beach side.

He pulled two of the swimmers from the water, with the third being safely on rocks at Bar Beach, and took them to the Marine Rescue Base jetty for assessment. Ambulance staff attended the base and confirmed that the swimmers did not need further attention.

"The two swimmers in the water were extremely cold and tired," Mr Barson said.

"His prompt actions saved the situation from deteriorating into something much more serious," Mr Barson said.

His prompt actions saved the situation from deteriorating into something much more serious.

Roger Barson, Merimbula Marine Rescue

"It appears that the swimmers wanted to cross the channel from the sandbank at Spencer Park to the visible sandbank on the Main Beach side and underestimated the depth of the channel and strength of the outgoing current and were being swept toward the bay," Mr Barson said.

"If the boat had not been where it was it could have been a serious matter," he added.

Mr Barson cautioned that the outgoing tide in the channel could be very strong. He added that although it may look tempting to cross from Spencer Park or Bar Beach to Main Beach, people could get in trouble in the swift-moving outgoing tide.

He said that recent flooding and wet weather had helped to clear the channel a little but had not changed the situation at Merimbula bar though.

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