Four people rescued 17 hours after boat capsizes south of Coral Bay, WA

4 Jul 2023

emergency beacon
Marine rescue north of Cape Farquhar(Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

Four people spent nearly 17 hours in the water and on top of an “overturned hull” after their boat capsized off Western Australia’s north-west coast on Tuesday afternoon.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) response duty manager Dan Gillis said the 7-metre recreational boat overturned at about 4pm, but the onboard crew was unable to access their emergency beacon overnight due to darkness.

He said AMSA received a signal at 9am on Wednesday from an emergency beacon off Cape Farquhar, about 88 kilometres south of the tourist town Coral Bay.

Mr Gillis said a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, AMSA’s Perth-based challenger rescue aircraft, a helicopter from Exmouth and a local vessel were dispatched to assist.

An hour and 45 minutes after the emergency signal was raised, the RAAF aircraft located an “upturned hull” about 23 kilometres north-west of Cape Farquhar.

The four people on board the boat, who were all wearing life jackets, were rescued.

Mr Gillis said the survivors were reportedly suffering from mild hypothermia and AMSA was not aware of any other injuries.

A St John Ambulance spokeswoman said two ambulance crews had been deployed as part of the response and that four patients were transferred to Coral Bay nursing post for medical assessment.

emergency beacon
The boat capsized near Cape Farquhar, about 88 kilometres south of Coral Bay.

Life jackets vital for survival

Mr Gillis said rescues were not common in the isolated area, but resources were available “to provide assistance to people in places like that when they need it”. 

He said the incident showed how important it was to be well-prepared for emergencies when out on the water.

“Wearing a life jacket and carrying an emergency beacon, as well as keeping it in a place where it can be easily accessed on board small vessels, could potentially save your life,” he said.

Mr Gillis said people also needed to ensure their emergency beacon was correctly registered.

“We were able to get really good information from the emergency contact that was associated with the distress beacon that helped us plan the response,” he said.

Mr Gillis said AMSA was not aware of the circumstance leading up to the vessel capsizing.

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