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19 hours of sharks, stingers and sea snakes

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19 hours of sharks, stingers and sea snakes

Post by shammy on Sun May 25, 2008 10:03 am

ALL they could do was cling to each other. For 19 hours Alison Dalton and Dick Neely struggled to survive after being separated from their dive boat.

The pair went missing on Friday afternoon while diving on the Barrier Reef.

Their rescue off the coast north of Airlie Beach yesterday ended a remarkable tale of survival - coupled with plenty of good luck.

"We're exhausted," the couple said yesterday after being hoisted by helicopter after drifting 14.5km.

"We're fine but tired and we're really thankful to our rescuers," they added as they were taken in wheelchairs from a helicopter that had flown them to Townsville Base Hospital. They were released last night.

Linking their dive belts to ensure they weren't separated while they floated through the night probably saved their lives, rescuers said.

They had talked to each other to stay awake and to take their minds off their growing thirst, while their wetsuits protected them from jellyfish and sea snakes, said Danielle Scott-Flanders, a friend of the couple.

The drama was a reminder of the disappearance of Americans Eileen and Thomas Lonergan who vanished in 1998 after being left behind by a dive boat northeast of Cairns. They were never found.

Volunteer Andrew Barker, who first spotted Mr Neely and Ms Dalton, said the couple "were on their backs, flippers out of the water".

"They were waving frantically . . . then they were blowing kisses at us," he said

Michaela Moss, president of Volunteer Marine Rescue in Proserpine which joined in the search, said drifting through the night would have been "terrifying".

"It was dark . . . there are currents, there was a wind of about 15 to 20 knots and a fairly decent swell which makes it hard to keep your mouth clear of water," she said. "They are extremely, extremely lucky."

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23753103-661,00.html

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shammy

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