TODAY |

Watch: West Coast fisherman winched from life raft, 'lucky to be alive' after boat catches fire

A distress beacon may have saved the life of a lone fishermen whose boat caught fire off Westport today.

The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ plucked the man from a liferaft off Cape Foulwind, and says if he hadn't had his distress beacon he may still be out at sea. It says he's lucky to be alive.

RCCNZ received an alert from the distress beacon at 11am from the vessel located 12 miles west off Cape Foulwind.

The team sent the Greymouth search and rescue helicopter, which airlifted the man from the life raft and took him to hospital for a medical check.

RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer Geoff Lunt said it was a successful operation and the rescue coordination centre acted immediately. 

The satellite technology allows for alerts to be received within minutes of someone activating a distress beacon, he said. 

RCCNZ received the alert about six minutes after it was activated and a satellite detected it.

“If he hadn’t had his distress beacon he may still be out there now,” Mr Lunt said.

“We don’t know what communications he had on the fishing vessel, or if he had time to use the radio to make a distress call. The beacon allowed for a swift response and a successful rescue.”

Float-free EPIRB distress beacons that can activate automatically became compulsory on commercial fishing vessels from January 1 this year. 

This equipement applies to vessels between 7.5 metres and 24 metres operating outside enclosed waters.