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Rescue survivors tell all

One of many who helped with the rescue effort, Paul Catt, left, with Leo Rayner and Tore Rayner, who are lucky to be alive after their boat capsized in Ngawi. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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Three men who cheated death when their boat capsized off the coast of Ngawi have expressed a heartfelt thank you to emergency services and community members who assisted in the dramatic rescue effort that saved their lives.

On Friday, 78-year-old Leo Rayner, known as Honk, was on his boat, Moody Blue, with his 48-year-old son Tore Rayner and good mate, Paul Hudson, 70, collecting up cray pots.

A set of rogue waves came through and one crashed down on top of the seven-metre boat, causing it to flip upside down.

Tore had been preparing to dive so he was in his wetsuit and flippers and managed to make it to the surface relatively quickly.

The wrecked hull of the boat, minus cabin, recovered from the sea.

But the situation was looking grim for his dad and Paul, who were both trapped underneath the boat for what the trio now estimate to be more than 30 minutes.

However, thanks to the quick thinking of the Ngawi community, the two older men have walked away alive but wounded.

Leo has about seven stitches underneath his black eye and bruises and grazes over his body, and Paul has 70 stitches covering his head, face and foot, the pair are happy to be breathing.

“The worst part was the cold,” Leo said on Sunday from his Clareville property.

He and Paul kept calm while being knocked around by the waves trapped under the capsized boat.

“We were talking to each other, we were pretty close to each other.

“I was in the doorway getting thrashed around and he was getting thrashed around.”

Leo, who has been diving for 50-odd years, said there was a 30cm gap of air that kept coming and going with the swell.

He said he removed his life jacket so he could take advantage of the air pocket.

“I said to Paul ‘we have to try and get out that porthole, and we sat there riding it out.”

The men were comforted when they heard rescuers yelling for them on the other side of the hull.

Eventually, Leo saw the hand of scuba diver Tony Lancaster come through the anchor hatch.

He negotiated his way to the hole, hitting his head on the way, and grabbed on to the hand to be pulled free.

A short while later, Paul too was pulled through the hatch to safety.

Tore said “it felt like forever” waiting to discover whether his father was still alive.

“I was terrified – I thought he was a goner.”

He put his hand under the boat and a hand touched his, alerting him that at least one man was still alive.

“I wanted to know how many and I heard them shout out ‘two’. That was a huge relief.”

Paul, who owns a bach in Ngawi but is a firefighter based in Marton, said in 58 years it had been the first time he had been on the receiving end of a rescue.

The former Martinborough man thanked the community for its “marvellous” effort and said there would probably have been a sad ending had it not been for Lancaster.

Tore was also grateful to all involved for the “great response”.

Leo’s wife and Tore’s mum, Margaret Rayner said she would be forever appreciative to everyone who rallied together to save her loved ones.

“It’s only just hit home the enormity of how lucky they were,” she said, with Leo adding, “we’re thankful to everybody”.

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