A ROCK fisherman owes his life to a bucket and volunteer lifesavers after an hour spent clinging to the plastic container in rough seas off Elizabeth Beach yesterday morning ended in his rescue.
The Newcastle man, 43, was swept into the sea by a rogue wave around 7am.
His two companions raised the alarm and Surf Life Saving NSW was contacted 40 minutes later.
The organisation’s Donna Wishart said the first rescuer on the scene was Pacific Palms jet ski operator Lennon Fisher, who gained his qualifications a fortnight ago.
The Westpac rescue helicopter was also tasked from Newcastle.
Within 15 minutes Mr Fisher found the stricken man floating 150 metres offshore, hanging onto a bucket with a lid.
The hypothermic and slightly disoriented patient was taken to the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, and carried by ambulance to Manning Hospital.
Apart from suffering cuts and bruises and swallowing water, Ms Wishart said the Caves Beach man is “recovering well” in hospital.
Lower North Coast lifesaving director Julie Wilcox said the patient was pleased to see his rescuer.
“We were extremely lucky our jet ski operator was on the scene so quickly,” she said. “The man was very grateful. He thanked us and said “I would have been dead for sure without you guys”. He was especially lucky because he was wearing very heavy boots and overalls and would have been in real trouble without the bucket.”
Mrs Wilcox said the near-miss highlighted a need for rock fishers to wear lifejackets.
“Fishing from rock platforms is intrinsically dangerous because the sea conditions can be unpredictable.”
The three fishermen had trekked around the rocks from The Ruins campground in Booti Booti National Park at 5am, before the man was swept into the sea two hours later.
Lifesavers also managed to salvage the man’s lucky bucket, which has been reunited with its owner in hospital.
A 30-year-old man drowned at Sawtell on March 28, swept from a rock from which he was fishing.
I guess all beach goers should wear lifejacket, it is especially necessary for rock fishermen. Any wave comes up will capable of sweeping some one to sea, freaque waves or otherwise. One cannot really define which one is or is not a freaque wave. I am probably too old to understand why would people wish to do rock fishing, to me the danger just too great to justify the excitement of doing it.