Two scuba divers were plucked from the open ocean almost 24 hours after they went missing on a pleasure dive on Austrailia’s Great Barrier Reef.
The divers, a 38-year-old British man and a 40-year-old American woman, were found shortly before 9 a.m. 7.8 nautical miles from where they had lost contact with their diving boat on Friday afternoon.
They were winched to safety after an 18 hour air rescue effort involving up to 12 aircraft and flown to a Queensland hospital where they are said to be in good spirits despite suffering from mild hypothermia.
Last night, police and emergency services used helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft equipped with search lights and infrared sensing equipment to search for the divers but were forced to call off the search.
At first light this morning the search continued with seven helicopters and three fixed wing aircraft. A rescue helicopter spotted the pair near the Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland's coast.
Police said the experienced divers surfaced yesterday afternoon around 650 feet from the dive boat but were unable to raise the crew.
They decided against fighting the strong current to conserve their energy, tying themselves to each other with a weight belt.
"They conserved energy throughout the evening and stayed as a pair awaiting rescue," Acting Superintendent Shane Chelepy of the Water Police said at a press conference in Brisbane today.
"From the debrief we have, these people said they did spot one of the search aircraft last night but were unable to attract its attention," Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said.
Following the search, attention has now turned to the dive boat operator, The Pacific Star, whose skipper was believed to have waited three hours until 5.30 p.m. to alert emergency services to the missing divers.