AN Earby couple narrowly avoided tragedy when they were swept out to sea during a holiday to Australia.
Steven and Linda Jones were on a fishing trip with friends on the west coast of the country when disaster struck. An experienced fisherman, Steven was helping to land a large whitetip reef shark when he suddenly fell six metres down a rock face into the sea, at Salmon Holes in Albany.
Speaking to an Australian news channel, Steven (49) said: “I thought this is it, I really did. I just knew how bad the sea was, I’d been looking at it all day. Everybody was screaming ‘Hang on, hang on’, and of course I couldn’t. I was just in the ocean being swept away and then back in, being pounded against the rocks.”
Desperately watching him as he struggled to stay afloat, Linda jumped into the water and found herself in trouble.
She said: “I started screaming, crying, shaking, and I didn’t know what to do. My first instinct was to go in after him.”
Luckily, one of the fishing party was able to pull her out using a long rod. Steven was saved when a friend threw a buoy into the water.
In a twist of fate, the flotation aid was only available at the notorious fishing spot because of a tragic accident in 2003.
A 15-year-old local boy, Nathan Drew, drowned in the same waters when he was swept off rocks into the sea. His sister and girlfriend were left watching horrified and helpless on the rocks without a rope or buoy to throw to him.
Following his death, Nathan’s family campaigned tirelessly to have buoys, stored on towers called Silent Sentries, placed at the most dangerous spots along the coast to at least give people a chance of being rescued.
Steven said: “He landed the buoy right at my hands and I grabbed on to that and from that moment on I knew that I could live.”
The couple are coming to the end of a three month trip to Australia, during which they have been visiting family. Friend Gary Hooper said: “They are still in shock after the ordeal and realise how lucky they are. Not only was there the thought of drowning, but also the sharks lurking below. They got away with just cuts and bruises thanks to help from the other people there.”