Dramatic capsize rescue
By: Matt Cunningham
November 11, 2006 12:00am

A police diver had to give a man a crash course in scuba diving before rescuing him from a capsized boat at Frankston.

The man, in his 60s, spent more than 40 minutes trapped beneath the 5m fishing boat in freezing water on Thursday night.

He survived after finding an air pocket inside the boat's cabin.

The man was fishing with a friend when their anchor rope got caught in the propeller, spinning the vessel around and causing it to start taking on water.

Another boat came to the fishermen's assistance, but only one of the men was able to get off the boat before it capsized.

Bob Chase, from Volunteer Marine Rescue Mornington, was one of the first on the scene.

"We could quite clearly hear banging and shouting so we knew there was still someone trapped inside and that they weren't getting out any time soon," Mr Chase said.

Mr Chase and another volunteer rescuer dived in the water and tried to rescue the man but could not reach him.

Mr Chase said the man had crawled as far into the boat's cabin as he could to escape the water.

"He had his head in a small air pocket right up the pointy end of the boat," he said.

An air ambulance lowered police diver Sgt Tim James into the water to begin a difficult rescue operation.

Sgt James said the boat's cabin was filled with floating objects such as Eskys, mattresses, life jackets and fishing line.

He had to cut through the fishing line to reach the man, who was in a state of distress.

"He had eyes on him like dinner plates," Sgt James said. He said he had to keep the man calm while he removed the other objects from the cabin.

"I just reassured him that he was going to see Christmas and that he had to trust me because I would come back to get him," he said.

But when it came time for the rescue, the man started to panic.

"I had to give him a quick lesson in scuba diving because he had no concept of putting a regulator in his mouth," Sgt James said.

"I must have spent 15 minutes just getting his confidence up as to putting the mask on and breathing underwater.

"Once I was happy he had the skills to breathe I grabbed him tight to me and pulled him down through the water.

"Once we made the turn and he could see daylight he took off like a rocket."

Sgt James said the man's body temperature had dropped to about 32C.

He was taken by ambulance to Frankston Hospital suffering hypothermia but was soon discharged.