The family of an Oamaru whitebaiter swept out to sea say they owe a mystery man a “hell of a lot”.
Craig Andrew was rescued by helicopter yesterday morning, after being dragged 3km off the north side of the Waitaki River mouth.
He was flown to Dunedin Hospital in a critical condition.
The 40-year-old suffered a heart attack mid-flight, and was admitted to the intensive care unit.
His mother, sister and partner were by his side last night. His stepfather, Bruce Cawley, described his condition as “50:50”.
Emergency services were alerted to the accident by a whitebaiter on the south side, and without him, Andrew would still be missing, his stepfather said.
“I don’t know who he was …
“I hope the guy would like to get in touch with us to thank him.
“It would have been a different scenario.
“I’m just so, so thankful to the emergency services, too. They do a marvellous job.”
The fact he was wearing a lifejacket, a gift from his stepfather, made the difference, Cawley, who was a firm believer in taking safety precautions, said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re my age, his age, or a young kid — it’s just a safety thing.
“[Without it] the water would have taken him under and they would still be out there searching.”
Waitaki River was Andrew’s favourite whitebaiting spot. He caught 32kg last weekend, and the 15-year veteran fisherman knew the spot “very well”.
Cawley described his stepson as a down-to-earth man, and said his 2-year-old daughter was the “sparkle of his life”.
The incident comes after a whitebaiter in the same area survived after being swept out to sea three weeks ago.
The man was wearing a lifejacket and made it back to shore unaided.
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