Peter Saunders with the pole that kept Tweed Heads fisherman David Richardson afloat.
Peter Saunders with the pole that kept Tweed Heads fisherman David Richardson afloat.

Trawlerman feared dead



A TWEED Heads trawler operator's amazing survival tale was tempered last night with the knowledge searchers had been unable to find his father who had been missing since their boat sank on Saturday morning.

Dave Richardson survived 35 hours at sea by drifting on a bamboo pole through shark-infested waters for 100km until he was rescued off Point Danger yesterday.

But searchers last night had been unable to find his 68-year-old father George, who was also on board and is presumed drowned.

Dave Richardson clutched the pole like a witch on a broomstick until his miraculous rescue by a startled fisherman.

His trawler, Star Mist 2, suddenly overturned just after midnight on Friday off Moreton Island, taking about three minutes to sink.

The 36-year-old survivor is recovering in hospital from sunburn, exposure and dehydration but is expected to make a full recovery.

Mr Richardson was thrown into the water but managed to cling onto a five metre long bamboo pole which is used to recover lines on the trawler.

He was swept south, holding onto the pole, along the Queensland coast. He told rescuers that he came close to being rescued several times as boats passed by him in the night.

Currumbin recreational fisherman Steve Hickman was trolling for mahi mahi and marlin about 11.30am when he spotted what he thought was a turtle directly ahead.

"I seen his fingers. I thought maybe it was a loggerhead turtle. You don't get used to seeing humans floating out there," he recalled.

"Geez I'm glad to see you," were the first words from the exhausted trawlerman.

"I bet you are," Mr Hickman replied.

Mr Richardson was clutching the bamboo pole with his legs and arms wrapped around it.

"He rode the thing for close to 40 hours. I don't know how it kept him afloat," said Mr Hickman.

"He was destined to be picked up and it was today and it was by me."

Mr Richardson was taken to Currumbin where he was treated and admitted to hospital.

The bamboo pole has been safely stored at the local Volunteer Marine Rescue station.

VMR president Peter Saunders described the story of survival as incredible.

"He was straddled across a pole and clutched it with his two hands like a witch would ride a broom stick," he said. "It obviously wasn't his time to die. He's a very lucky man."



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