Boat takes itself out for spin

A runaway fishing boat gave emergency rescue workers the runaround for nearly an hour on Lake Dunstan on Monday.

The out-of-control outboard raced around in circles for more than 40 minutes as the Clyde rescue boat attempted to bring it under control.

A Fire Service member who tried to jump into the empty boat slipped and fell into the lake before another member successfully clambered aboard and brought the vessel under control.

A 57-year-old Dunedin man was trout fishing alone on the 3.6m aluminium boat about 400m upstream from the Clyde Power Station when he fell into the lake shortly after 8.30am.

A witness, Rex Parkin of Alexandra, said the man appeared to hook his throttle when casting.

"He stood up to cast, and the next thing the boat is racing off and he's in the water. It just shot out from under him at full throttle."

Mr Parkin's wife, Elma, immediately rang emergency services while he took his boat out to help the man.

After reaching the fisher 150m from shore, Mr Parkin attached a strop to the man's arm and towed him towards shore, where he was assisted by a boat from the rowing club.

"When I got to him, he was just lying there in the water with his eyes closed. He was absolutely exhausted. There is no way he'd have survived if he didn't have his life jacket on."

Clyde chief fire officer Richard Davidson, who was piloting the rescue boat, said corralling the runaway craft was like "a rodeo on Lake Dunstan".

"I've never struck anything like it. That boat was really racing around, and we were concerned it might jump the boom and get into the Clyde Dam pond, which would have caused all sorts of problems."

Both the rescue craft and the fishing boat sported "several decent dints" after the incident, Mr Davidson said.

Acting Sergeant Colin Stevenson, of Alexandra, said there was little doubt the life jacket the fisherman was wearing had saved his life.

"The man was exhausted but did not require CPR and was on shore near the Dunstan Arm Rowing Club building when police arrived."

The man was taken to Dunstan Hospital in Clyde for observation before being discharged.


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