Rescue Story - Lost at sea


It has all the makings of a thrilling Hollywood movie, but for two men spearfishing off the north coast earlier this year, it was a terrifying reality.

On 2 May, Trevor Ketchion and Dylan Briggs were diving at Nine Mile Reef just off Tweed Heads when a strong current saw the driver of their boat lose contact with them.

The two men were drifting at a speed of five knots (just over nine kilometres per hour), only to realise they had another fear to deal with. Three large Great White Sharks had begun circling beneath them.  

The men knew they had to make some crucial decisions if they were going to survive.

They had two choices – try and swim against the current in what they thought was the direction of their boat; or conserve their energy and wait until help arrived.

Knowing they were two, tiny black dots in a dark blue ocean, Trevor and Dylan thought being spotted from the air might require a miracle – so they decided to swim in what they thought was the direction of their boat.  

After more than an hour of swimming they began to hear the sound of helicopters in the distance.The men put their flippers onto the tips of their spear guns and rose them into the air hoping to attract attention.

But two and a half hours later, as fatigue and muscle cramps set in, the men were holding serious concerns about their chances of survival. They estimated that swimming to land would take another five hours.  

Pure relief then washed over the men when one of the searching helicopters made a sweeping turn towards them and began to hover overhead. They’d been found by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.  

“I remember the noise of the helicopter sitting overhead and the intense downdraft that was churning the water’s surface and spraying it across our faces,” Trevor said.  

“I watched with relief as the flight paramedic was winched into the ocean and secured Dylan into his harness before winching him to safety. I kept my face mask on, repeatedly looking down below for sharks and then it was my turn to be winched.”  “The speed with which I was placed securely into the rescue harness and winched out of the water was incredible,” said Trevor.

 “The crew took exceptional care of us and I truly hope they know how important their jobs are.”