Life or death struggle

DANGEROUS WATERS: Barry Fuller and Ray Fox, both of Ballina, are lucky to be alive after their boat capsized on the Richmond River bar earlier this month, as they were returning from one of their regular fishing trips. Photo: Jay Cronan
DANGEROUS WATERS: Barry Fuller and Ray Fox, both of Ballina, are lucky to be alive after their boat capsized on the Richmond River bar earlier this month, as they were returning from one of their regular fishing trips. Photo: Jay Cronan

A FISHING trip quickly turned into a fight for survival for Ballina men Ray Fox and Barry Fuller, after their boat capsized on the Richmond River bar earlier this month.

The pair was returning from fishing at the 48-fathom line when a freak wave hit portside and flipped the boat upside down.

“I’d gone to have a look at the bar early in the morning and I watched five boats go out with no problem,” Mr Fox said.

“So we decided to go out.

“We came back to the bar just before 2pm and were coming across when it just came out of nowhere.”

Mr Fuller said the bar was “pretty low” and that as soon as they hit the river, there was a “washing machine effect”.

“It all happened very quickly,” he said.

“I didn’t even realise what was going on until the boat was up in the air.”

Both men were trapped in the water underneath the boat.

Although they were wearing lifejackets, these actually prevented the men from escaping easily.

“It was such a weird sensation,” Mr Fox said.

“I was plunging down into the water, the noises were all distorted and I knew I had to get out of there.

“I had no time to think about anything.

“It was a desperate and life-threatening situation.”

Mr Fuller said waves were breaking over the top of them, but then he caught a glimpse of sunlight.

“I thought I was gone,” he said.

“I’d been trying to get out and I couldn’t.

“This was definitely life or death.

“I’ve been on the water for 16 years and nothing like this has ever happened before. I would never want to go through something like that again.

“But this bar has been getting worse and worse.

“We are going to have another death here unless it is dredged – something has got to be done.”

Mr Fuller and Mr Fox are “extremely grateful” for the assistance provided by Marine Rescue Ballina, Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue, Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club and two young men on jet skis.

They also appreciated the assistance from Ballina ambulance, Ballina police and the staff at the Ballina Hospital.

“Those organisations do such a good job – I don’t know what would have happened to us if they weren’t there to help,” Mr Fox said.

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