Lifejacket helps man survive sea ordeal

MARK Croft is a living advertisement for the benefits of wearing a lifejacket at sea.

Mr Croft, 42, of Warrnambool, was thrown out of his 4.5-metre powerboat yesterday morning by a rogue wave about 750 metres off The Basin, east of Killarney, and had to swim for about 90 minutes to get back to land.

“Thank God my lifejacket was on,” an exhausted Mr Croft said.

“There’s no way I would have made it without it.”

Mr Croft said he had dropped off friend Phil Hoey to go snorkelling for crayfish near the rocks at The Basin before heading out to sea to get away from the swell. 

“I went to pick up a bottle of water and up front a very large wave hit and threw me out,” he said.

“It flew everything up in the air.”

He suffered injuries to his midriff when he was tipped out of the boat and swallowed a lot of seawater during his long swim back to The Basin, arriving at the same time as emergency services.

He was taken by ambulance to Warrnambool Base Hospital for treatment.

The alarm had been raised by another angler Nathan McSween of Warrnambool who found Mr Croft’s powerboat doing circles with no one on board. “I saw a boat doing donuts and thought this is not right,” he said. He jumped on board Mr Croft’s boat and turned the engine off before towing it back to near The Basin.

Mr Hoey said he thought Mr Croft had gone fishing elsewhere when he surfaced from snorkelling to find the boat nowhere in sight.

He swam the short distance to shore when he saw the emergency helicopter in the air over The Basin.

Yesterday’s marine emergency was the second that Mr McSween has been involved in.

He received a commendation for brave conduct from the Victorian Governor Alex Chernov last year for saving three boys from drowning at the flooded mouth of the Hopkins River on January 16, 2011.

The three teenage boys had been swimming when one was carried away by the strong current and the other two became stranded on rocks. 

Mr McSween entered the fast-flowing current and swam to the boy who was about 60 metres out to sea. 

He told the distressed teenager to hold onto him and swam back to shore. 

Mr McSween then re-entered the water, swam to the two boys trapped on rocks and then swam them back to safety.

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