“I CAN’T thank those rescuers enough.”
That was the first thing Tony Bretherton said when he came into the Register office on Tuesday morning, the day after he was plucked from the water near Comerong Island after his tinnie capsized.
“What a wonderful job they did, a big thanks to everyone involved. I lost my boat and my gear but I have my life,” he said.
At 7am Mr Bretherton and his partner left their home at Greenwell Point in a punt to fish from the beach at Comerong Island.
The weather was calm but high winds were predicted.
However, it was only a few minutes back to the safety of Greenwell Point in calm conditions.
They beached the boat and walked across the island but on arrival there was too much wind to fish the beach.
“We moved around to the breakwall to fish. After a while I was getting worried about where I had tied the boat so I went to check it,” Mr Bretherton said.
“I noticed the dark clouds to the west and thought, ‘This isn’t going to improve’. I decided to head back before it got worse,” he said.
Mr Bretherton planned to leave his partner on the island, take the boat back and then drive his car around to pick her up.
Having spent time in the army and the SES, Mr Bretherton was aware of his situation, wore his lifejacket and made a conscious thought to grab a plastic drum in his boat should something go wrong.
“I was about a quarter of the way across the river when the chop was getting to about three feet,” he said.
“Then two waves came over the bow of the punt in quick succession.
“The boat started to sink. Time seemed to slow down. I had time to get ready, tidy up any ropes and loose items.
“I looked at the 25 litre drum and my thoughts were ‘You’re going to be my mate’.
“Once the boat was under water I swam away from it and started to swim towards Orient Point.
“I think I was in the water for about 45 minutes and then I saw the rescue boat and the helicopter.
“I didn’t feel cold at that point, but when I got out hypothermia hit me,” he said.
“The ambos were wonderful, the police and rescuers, everyone involved was great and I thank you all,” Mr Bretherton said.