Two cousins among three dead in boat tragedy

Warning: Graphic Images

Two cousins and their mate out for a day of fishing died on Sunday when their boat hit rocks and overturned in Sydney's south.

The middle-aged men were not believed to be wearing life jackets when tragedy struck near the Henry Head Lighthouse at La Perouse just after 12.30pm.

Rescuers said conditions should have given the stricken trio a chance - it was a blue-sky day, seas were not rough and a rescue helicopter base was less than 1km away.

But by the time Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter crewmen Clayton Allison and swimmer Hayden Sorrell arrived, two men could be seen floating while the 5.7m craft crunched against the shore.

Three people are dead following a boat accident off La Perouse. Picture: 7News
Three people are dead following a boat accident off La Perouse. Picture: 7News

But by the time Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter crewmen Clayton Allison and swimmer Hayden Sorrell arrived, two men could be seen floating while the 5.7m craft crunched against the shore.

"On arrival we noticed the boat capsized on the rocks, we noticed the first person a matter of 30, maybe 40 metres (away from the boat) in a bay … while conducting the rescue we observed a second person," Mr Allison said.

"We had two critically ill people on board the aircraft, and again not knowing there was a third, we made a decision to return to the base here where we could commence resuscitation."

A NSW Ambulance helicopter arrived a short time later, winching out the third man and returning to the helicopter base where all three were pronounced dead despite paramedics attempting CPR.

Multiple bodies have been pulled out of the water after a boat accident in La Perouse. Picture: Adam Yip
Multiple bodies have been pulled out of the water after a boat accident in La Perouse. Picture: Adam Yip

"When we're this close it really gives us a great chance to make a difference, to get in early. Unfortunately today the outcome wasn't what we would have liked," Mr Allison said.

"In the case of today the conditions were not extraordinary."

Mr Sorrell was twice lowered into the water to retrieve the first two patients and told The Daily Telegraph he believed rescuers gave the men the best possible chance of survival.

"I do take comfort in knowing we did everything we can do and we did provide the best form of care we can," he told The Telegraph.

"This isn't my first rescue that's involved CPR in the aircraft on multiple patients so we do train a lot for it.

Westpac Lifesavers pulling a body out of the water in La Perouse after the boat overturned. Picture: Michael Ortuno
Westpac Lifesavers pulling a body out of the water in La Perouse after the boat overturned. Picture: Michael Ortuno

"The aim is for my winchman to lower me down and put me as close as they can to the patient … we use a snatch and grab, dive under the water and come up and hook them from behind.

"After that I give the signal and the air crewmen winches us straight up.

"It is the sad reality of the job, due to people fishing and being outdoors."

Ambulance inspector Geoff Senior said: "three people went out on a nice day in a boat and they haven't come back to their loved ones so it's a tragedy".

"It's hard on the paramedics that have a technical and professional job to do but also we're still people."

Eastern Beaches Police Inspector Chris Louis said it appears the men - two cousins and their close mate - got too close to the rocks, inside the swell.

It is believed the three men regularly went fishing together. Picture: Michael Ortuno
It is believed the three men regularly went fishing together. Picture: Michael Ortuno

"It appears the vessel's got close to the shore where there was a bit of a swell, early indications are that it was overturned and the men were thrown from the vessel.

"We did recover several life jackets in the water and that will form part of the investigation."

Insp Louis said the three men regularly went fishing together.

He has pleaded for boat users to respect the conditions.

"Know the conditions, know your capabilities and always wear your life jacket," Insp Louis said.

"It's probably the worst job in the police, informing next of kin of a deceased loved one."

Witness Matthias Winkler was standing on the headland watching crews in boats and jetskis search for the men.

"They were circling around what looked like a capsized boat, we saw something under the water," he said.

Vision taken from the crewmen helmet camera captured short flight to where the bodies were identified just metres from the rocks.

"We thought it was just a rescue drill because it was so close."

There were fears of a second boating tragedy to end the weekend, with police searching for a woman in the Murray River on the state's southern border last night.

It is believed the woman had been in a boat which hit a tree and overturned near the town of Moama.


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