Solo yachtsman saved by Personal Locator Beacon on life jacket

Search and Rescue approaches the liferaft. Screenshot from AMSA video.
Search and Rescue approaches the liferaft. Screenshot from AMSA video.

A joint operation between the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Northern Territory Police on 4th January 2021 has successfully saved the life of a solo yachtsman who fell into the Arafura Sea approximately 45km east of Cape Wessel, NT.

The yachtsman was wearing a life jacket with a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) when he unexpectedly fell into the water. A PLB is a small device that when activated, transmits a distress signal which is detected worldwide by the global satellite system.

As the safety-conscious yachtsman had an Australian beacon registered with AMSA, the AMSA Response Centre in Canberra had access to the details of the yacht so they had a better understanding of the situation, while using the PLB locator to track the exact position of the yachtsman.

The AMSA Challenger Jet from Cairns and another supporting aircraft were sent to the scene and air-dropped a life raft to the stranded yachtsman, while at the same time, the NT Water Police dispatched a boat to collect the yachtsman.

AMSA Response Centre Acting Manager, Jamie Storrie said this search and rescue was a successful joint operation between Federal and State government agencies who are well trained at saving lives. However, we can only deploy assets if we know where to look.

‘This incident highlights the importance of individuals taking personal responsibility for their safety at sea. When you are on any boat, conditions can change and you can find yourself in the water.

‘Wearing a life jacket is designed to prevent a person from drowning, but a life jacket with a Personal Locator Beacon will enable us to find you.

‘Last night the NT Police successfully rescued the solo yachtsman and I cannot stress enough the importance of life jackets with Personal Locator Beacons.’

NT Police A/Supt Milde said, ‘What a great effort by all involved in challenging conditions. The actions of the yachty himself are also to be commended. The fact that he was wearing a life jacket which had a personal locator beacon attached highlights the importance of carrying and correctly utilising the correct safety equipment whilst at sea. The end result would have been tragic if not for this equipment. Unfortunately due to the deteriorating weather conditions we were unable to recover the yacht, however we are tracking its progress and will keep the owner informed.’

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