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A rescue worthy of MacGyver: How chopper team saved fisherman from rising tide

A spinal board, three life jackets, and lateral thinking. That’s what it took for two paramedics to save a Queensland man’s life after he was stuck in quick-sand-like mud with rapidly rising water levels.

Feb 28, 2024, updated Feb 28, 2024
A supplied image obtained on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, shows Emergency services rescuing a man stuck in the mud after falling out of a boat at South Moreton Island. A man in his 60s became stuck in mud before paramedics and helicopter crews rescued him. (AAP Image/Supplied by Queensland Ambulance Service)

A supplied image obtained on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, shows Emergency services rescuing a man stuck in the mud after falling out of a boat at South Moreton Island. A man in his 60s became stuck in mud before paramedics and helicopter crews rescued him. (AAP Image/Supplied by Queensland Ambulance Service)

The boater in his 60s fell out of his tinny between Tabby Tabby and Eden islands into thick mud with the tide coming in on Monday afternoon.

His friend on board the tinny raised the alarm for help.

The man was in the mud for three hours with water levels rising above his shoulders by the time help arrived.

Paramedics Peter Carrie and Eden Venturato were at the scene at Southern Moreton Bay Island for all of 10 minutes and witnessed the tide rise by 15cm, so they knew they had to get the man out of the mud.

With a spinal board stretcher, three life jackets, some rope and a MacGyver sense of problem-solving the pair made a raft to extricate the man.

“We decided to take to the water so stripped down to the jocks and out we went,” Mr Carrie told reporters on Tuesday.

“It was time-critical. We had to get in the water otherwise worst case scenario he would have drowned.”

The pair were tied to the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) boat with a rope and swam for 55m until they reached the mud.

“We were on our knees with the board between us and had to shuffle forward and pull it, shuffle forward and pull it until we got (to him),” Ms Venturato told reporters.

When they arrived at the man, Mr Carrie joked “You owe us a carton” to which the patient light-heartedly responded, “I’ll buy you the whole liquor store”.

The pair managed to haul the man out of the mud and onto the makeshift flotation device before pulling him to safety with the help of the VMR crew.

By the time the man was a safe distance out of the mud, the water had completely inundated the area.

The Rescue500 helicopter arrived a few minutes later and the man was airlifted to Gold Coast University Hospital where he remains in a stable condition with leg injuries.

As for the paramedics, they were exhausted by the rescue but thankful no bull sharks “nipped at their toes” during the ordeal.

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