Capsized family swim to safety

Danny Tavele bails the last of the water out of his rescued boat.
Danny Tavele bails the last of the water out of his rescued boat. News Mail

A PEACEFUL Sunday morning fishing trip took a dangerous turn for a Bundaberg family, after their tinny capsized off Mon Repos — forcing a dad and his two sons to swim an estimated 500m for land.

The two adults and an 11-year-old were in the water for nearly two hours after being hit by a freak wave about 9.30am.

Father Danny Tavele said the 5m boat was hit by the "wrong wave", in what was otherwise a calm day on the seas.

"It hit us, and (the boat) just flipped," Mr Tavele said.

After clinging to their partly-submerged boat for an hour, Robert Tavele made the desperate decision to swim for shore with his dad Danny and younger brother Taki.

"It took us about 45 minutes to get there," Robert said.

"But it felt like a lot longer."

While they could not save their fishing gear, the men managed to rescue a mobile telephone that was kept in a waterproof plastic case.

After a lengthy swim, the exhausted trio made it to dry ground at Butchers Rock, north of Mon Repos, and telephoned home to report the accident.

Robert said 11-year-old Taki had coped remarkably well with the ordeal.

"He’s a little bit shocked, but he’s okay," he said.

Volunteer Marine Rescue duty skipper Bill Ker said the men were fortunate the weather was calm.

"I think they were lucky to come out of it unscathed," Mr Ker said.

"They would have had a good half-kilometre swim."

The telephone call home sparked a chain of alerts to emergency services, with Bundaberg Police alerting Volunteer Marine Rescue Bundaberg, and the AGL Action Rescue helicopter.

"We got the call from police and went out there, but by the time we arrived, they had practically swum to shore," AGL Action Rescue helicopter pilot Peter Marris said.

"They’d been in the water about two hours by that point, so we landed and had the paramedics check them out on shore."

Although all three shipwrecked men were wearing lifejackets, they were no protection against the cold.

The two men were fit and well, but young Taki was treated for hypothermia by the AGL Action Rescue helicopter paramedics.

The boat was towed into Burnett Heads marina by VMR, where it was cleaned up by Mr Tavele and Robert

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