Two mates survive sea ordeal

By James Perkins

MOST People head to the Whitsundays hoping for a bit of adventure and fun but two recently relocated Airlie Beach men got more than they bargained for after they fell off the back of the Lady Mitchell at about 7.30pm last Thursday. Gaining decent footing at sea can be difficult at the best of times, but the two men were described as intoxicated when one stumbled, knocking himself and his mate into the waters of the Coral Sea. Whitsunday police officer in charge, Senior Sergeant Steve O'Connell said that the men were skylarking on the vessel as it headed towards Shute Harbour and other reports say that they were continually told to stop mucking about in the minutes before falling overboard. Laurence Smith, 21 and Kascha Wood, 18, had obviously enjoyed the Whitehaven Beach party they were returning from and continued the party aboard but it came to a halt when they found themselves drifting in pitch black waters. "It was pretty scary," Mr Smith told the media. "We were yelling and couldn't see each other but after a while we couldn't even hear each other any more." Snr Sgt O'Connell said that a search was immediately commenced. "Water police, Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR), private vessels and two helicopters were involved with the search," he said. "It was called off at midnight and recommenced at day light, Friday morning... they were located quickly not long after." The men were found on the Eastern point of Long Island, they swam three kilometres and though separated, arrived at the same beach only 300 metres apart. Whitsunday VMR's Malcom Priday told the Daily Mercury it was a fortunate outcome for the men. "The rising tides usually bring stronger currents, but it worked in their favour," he said. "They were both fine and even drove themselves home after the ordeal." Snr Sgt O'Connell said Water Police and Maritime Safety Queensland were investigating the incident.

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