Survivor meets life-saving AMSA aircrew at Cairns

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Today, a solo sailor who was rescued after spending several hours alone in the ocean after being pitched overboard from his yacht, met some of AMSA’s Search and Rescue (SAR) aircrew who helped save his life.

On 4 January 2021, AMSA tasked its Cairns-based SAR Challenger Jet to locate 55-year-old Nigel Fox, when he was separated from his yacht, 93 kilometres northeast from the remote town of Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory. The crew not only located Nigel, but successfully dropped a life raft to him before he was later retrieved by NT police.

At AMSA’s base at Cairns Airport today, Nigel met key AMSA crew members, who provided the opportunity to look inside an AMSA SAR Challenger Jet and view lifesaving equipment that can be dropped from the aircraft to persons in distress.

“It’s thanks to this crew that I’ve been given a whole new lease on life,” Nigel said.

“I want to pay it back and support getting the message out there – if you go into the water unprepared, you may not come out.”

Aircraft Mission Coordinator Ollie Marin who was on-board the AMSA Challenger Jet on the day of the rescue said it was his first-time meeting someone who he had been instrumental in saving.

“It’s been fantastic to hear Nigel’s story, show him the AMSA base, the AMSA Challenger jet and some life-saving equipment we use,” Ollie said.

“Most people wouldn’t know about the level of precision required to drop a life raft from a jet aircraft travelling at 200 feet, 330 kilometres per hour to a single person in the sea. A successful drop and an unsuccessful drop is separated only by a matter of 3-4 seconds.

“It’s thanks to the technology on board the aircraft and our highly-skilled crews, that we were able to successfully drop the life raft to Nigel that day.

It takes an incredible amount of teamwork to do what we do, with fellow aircrew on board the jet, with the AMSA Response Centre in Canberra, with other vessels, aircraft operators and State police. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

Australia has one of the most sophisticated civil search-and-rescue capabilities in the world. With four highly-modified AMSA Challenger jets based at strategic locations throughout Australia, where they assist in covering Australia’s large search and rescue region; approximately one tenth of the earth’s surface.

/Public Release.