Diver missing for 17 hours off Townsville coast found alive
November 7, 2016
A scuba diver missing for more than 17 hours off the north Queensland coast is lucky to be alive, according to his rescuers.
The man, aged 68, went to dive at the SS Yongala wreck near Russell Island, south of Townsville, by himself on Sunday and failed to return.
Police were called by the man's friend about 6:45pm, and found his boat moored at the dive site later that night with no-one on board.
Rescuer Alan Griffiths was on a helicopter that had been searching for the missing man this morning for 90 minutes and was about to head back to the base to refuel when the diver was spotted about 11:00am.
"There was a sense of urgency because we were heading back for fuel, but we wouldn't have been back for an hour."
Mr Griffiths was winched down to get the man from the water.
"I said to him, 'G'day mate, do you want a lift?'" he said.
Mr Griffiths said the man had seen three helicopters and a plane searching for him all morning.
Rescuers were hoping to see the man's black wetsuit and yellow oxygen tank.
"He's very lucky, there is an element of luck on his side, that's for sure," Mr Griffiths said.
"Black and yellow kind of stand out."
No safety equipment and a strong current
Mr Griffiths said the man usually uses a personal locator beacon, but cleaned it several days earlier and forgot to put it in his diving box.
"He jumped in the water from his boat and then realised the current was so strong and quite simply couldn't get back to his boat.
"That's how quickly the current took him."
The man was found 10 nautical miles north east of Cape Upstart, south of Ayr.
Rescuers ecstatic the man is alive
Acting Inspector Graeme Paterson said rescue coordinators set up a search pattern from the wreck, which was calculated on the tides and currents.
"It's a huge task to search a grid pattern of the ocean," he said.
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