Mystery man raises alarm after whitebaiter swept out to sea

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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