10 Feb 2011

Cook Islands fisherman swims for six hours to saves mates

2:48 pm on 10 February 2011

Three Cook Islands fishermen are lucky to be alive after one of them swam through the night for six hours to raise the alarm in Rarotonga.

Police Inspector Tere Patia says the small fishing boat was capsized by a freak wave and two of the men clung to a plastic petrol tank and a floating buoy while their friend swam for help.

He says the men all play rugby for the Arorangi team and swimmer Te Ina Tapurau is a fit man.

"He's quite a big guy, I think he's about twenty six years of age, he's got quite a big build. But I thinks he's very strong and I thinks he's very determined to get ashore to seek help."

One of the rescued men is police constable Johnny George, and Inspector Te Patia says he put all his training into action to help his friend Augustine Heather endure the cold and fatigue at sea.

All three men have been discharged from hospital and are now home with their families.

The partially submerged boat was towed to Rarotonga by a police patrol vessel.