Family of sinking boat praised for keeping calm

By Rebecca Ryan

Chris Boys, and children Holly, 8, and Alex, 13, realise the importance of life jackets after their boat sank on Lake Benmore on Sunday. Photo / Rebecca Ryan
Chris Boys, and children Holly, 8, and Alex, 13, realise the importance of life jackets after their boat sank on Lake Benmore on Sunday. Photo / Rebecca Ryan

A Papakaio family on board a boat that sank on Lake Benmore on Sunday, have been praised for their safety precautions and keeping calm during the ordeal.

Still shaken by the experience, the family of four said lifejackets, and the fact they kept their heads, was the reason they escaped unharmed.

And the speed with which the boat sank should be a warning to other boaties to have all emergency equipment close to hand.

The trip started as a test drive of their new boat, at Sailor's Cutting on a nice and calm day, but the weather came up very quickly.

"It was just a family going out to enjoy the area really," Papakaio farmer Chris Boys said.

"We'd only just got the boat and we'd already taken it for a sea trial in much worse conditions and it was fine."

However, about twenty minutes after launching onto the lake, water began to come into the cabin and then the pump, engine and auxiliary motor of the 2001 8m pleasure craft all failed.

With strong wind and heavy waves, the boat began to turn sideways, before rolling over.

While cellphone coverage was "dodgy" in the area, the family managed to contact emergency services while still on the boat, but water was continuing to come on board.

"It was filling up the cabin at the front, so it was on a bit of a lean," he said.

"I said to the policeman, right we're bailing."

About ten minutes later, the boat capsized.

Eight-year-old Holly and 13-year-old Alex said the water was "freezing", but they remained calm as the family huddled together and floated to shore.

Luckily, both children were confident swimmers.

"Swimming lessons paid off definitely, and life jackets, the kids were cool as cucumbers once they were in the water, I was probably the worst one," Mr Boys said.

"The ordeal took more of a toll on the children than they realised, but no one was injured."

He said the incident was "bizarre", as everything looked fine when the boat entered the water.

Kurow police Constable Craig Bennett said the family did all the right things by staying together and calling emergency services from their cellphone, which was kept in a waterproof container, to update their position.

After ringing the emergency service line, police, fire and ambulance were dispatched finding the family about 500m to 1km from Sailor's Cutting.

"They've had a lot of bad luck with the circumstances, but in the end they have done very well and the worst that came out of it is that they were cold and a little bit embarrassed."

Mr Bennett said the incident was a reminder of the importance of life jackets for every boat user, no matter the size of the vessel.

"They were well equipped and very prepared. They decided to enter the water, huddled together and floated to the edge of the lake," he said.

"They make the right precautions. They wore life jackets, they had a cellphone and rang and updated us," he said.

The boat remains about 100m offshore, as an investigation is under way.

Mr Boys said it had been an unpleasant experience, but the main thing was the family was safe. He had plans to frame the life saving life jackets.

"It's a bit disappointing, bloody

unfortunate, but these things happen. It's been a bit of a learning curve," he said.

"Apart from a dent in the pride, we're okay."

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