Surge pulls car into Lady Bay

SEASONED surfer and fisherman Richard Voigt almost became a submariner when his car was swept off the Warrnambool Lady Bay boat ramp.

He had to quickly scramble out the window as sea water quickly filled the cabin of his Holden VT Commodore sedan.

It was a frightening end to a morning fishing expedition on the weekend and stark reminder of the ocean’s unpredictability.

“The car kept going deeper and deeper off the ramp and I was almost like a captain going down with his ship,” the 71-year-old told The Standard yesterday.

“Within seconds it was up to my chest and I had to jump out.”

He said he had just returned to the ramp in his 5.5-metre cabin boat after a morning’s fishing as the northerly wind whipped up choppy seas.

“I backed the car and trailer down as I’ve done many times before,”  he said.

“Then as I was walking over to the jetty to get into the boat a swell came through. 

“I looked around to see the car and trailer being sucked backwards.

“It’s not a nice feeling.

“So I raced back, opened the door and pressed the brakes harder, but it kept sliding.

“Luckily the trailer dropped down and became wedged in the sand.

“Only the top of the bonnet and part of the car roof were showing.”

Mr Voigt thanked two four-wheel-drive owners for hauling his car and trailer out.

The car was a $4500 write-off and was taken to the wreckers while the trailer survived with a bent mudguard.

Mr Voigt also thanked the 20-or-so other boat users for their patience as they queued near the ramp for almost two hours while his drama unfolded.

He said the incident highlighted design issues with the ramp. 

“Ever since they put the concrete sides on the surge channels up the ramp,”  he said.

“Warrnambool desperately needs proper launching and mooring facilities in the bay.

“If they’re worried about  a marina affecting currents and sand movement it’s too late — that happened when the viaduct was closed off.”

Boat owners and anglers have used the mishap to press their case for  a major upgrade, but mayor Michael Neoh again cautioned about using what he described as an isolated incident to rush a decision.

pcollins@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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