Son tells of Port Fairy boat tragedy

TO Brian Clarke, they were the ‘‘salt of the earth’’.

The grieving son of Rob and Kaye Ward, who lost their lives in a boating accident off Port Fairy on Sunday, said his church-going parents would have done anything for anyone.

Still visibly shaken yesterday, Mr Clarke  recounted his final words to his mother and stepfather before tragedy struck on Sunday afternoon.

He said he told them he loved them before diving into the ocean in a desperate bid to raise the alarm. 

Mr Clarke and his mother and stepfather had been enjoying a sunny day on the bay when their boat capsized in rough surf off East Beach.

The vessel’s engine cut out and Mr Clarke leapt into the ocean and swam to shore to raise the alarm, while his parents remained on board.

The boat drifted towards shore before capsizing in heavy surf about 50 metres from the sand.

Police and emergency services said the pair suffered cardiac arrest and died at the scene.

The coroner is investigating the incident which happened about 600 metres south of the town’s golf club.

Mr and Mrs Ward, 65 and 60,  had been married for about 20 years and moved to Port Fairy in 1990 before later shifting to Warrnambool.

Mr Clarke said the pair spent every day together.

“They went to church all the time,” he said.

“They were very church orientated. They would do anything for anyone.”

Mr Clarke said his brother planned to return today from Kununurra in Western Australia, where he works.

Warrnambool police Act-ing Sergeant Pat McKinnon said the family had tried unsuccessfully to alert other vessels to their plight. 

Members of the Port Fairy Surf Life Saving Club were first on the scene.

Port Fairy Surf Life Saving Club member Paul Buchanan said club members were some of the first emergency services on the scene and praised them for their efforts in difficult circumstances.

“The club is very proud of the effort of our members Scott Hetherington and Luke Hamilton who attended the scene in our IRB, giving CPR to one of the victims for 25 minutes until ambulance officers were able to take over,” Mr Buchanan said. “This tragic incident again highlights the important role surf lifesaving has in supporting our community and our other emergency services.”

Sergeant Mick Wolfe, from Port Fairy police, called on people going into the water to do so safely.

“It’s just like being on the road. People just need to take heed of the conditions and to make sure the equipment they have is in good condition,” Sergeant Wolfe said. 

The incident is being investigated by the coroner.

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