January 26th is a day observed by many, however, for the Hugo family it has become a fateful reminder. After spending the weekend on Great Keppel Island and a cyclone looming, the Hugo Family made the decision to cut their stay short. It was just before 9.30am, in 2014, that they donned their life jackets, radioed the Yeppoon Coast Guard and set out on their 6-meter boat for Rosslyn Bay Harbor.
“We travelled steady and were nearly there when all of a sudden our boat flipped, it happened so quick that I thought Alex and I had been washed overboard but when we surfaced the boat was upside down approximately 20meters away.”
Her eldest son, Adam, surfaced close to Allison and her second son Alex, and instructed them to make their way to the boat and stay with it.
“I grabbed hold of Adam and Alex’s life jacket while Adam dragged us both through the water back to the boat. My husband Kim was at the boat, but Lauren, our daughter was nowhere to be found.”
With Lauren missing in the rough seas, Kim made numerous attempts of diving under the water to find her. Allison recalls the utter fear the family felt as Kim repeatedly came up for air without their daughter. After many attempts, Kim noticed Lauren was trapped by her life jacket under the boat with her head tilted back in a small air pocket. Kim pulled at Lauren’s legs and they knew that if she was going to make it to the surface she had to remove her life jacket.
As the Hugo’s reunited above the water, they realised the seriousness of their situation. Their EPIRB was lodged in a cupboard with the boat’s seat wedged against it. It took
Kim two gruelling hours of continuous diving to access and activate their EPIRB. After what felt like a lifetime, Allison noticed a helicopter flying near the coast. As the helicopter approached them, the family mustered what strength they had left to scream and wave, anything to make themselves known to the Rescue300 crew. Much to the Hugo’s dismay the helicopter flew straight over them; Allison reassured her family that it would come back.
“Thankfully, the helicopter turned and came very low and slowly back towards us, despite the EPIRB signal going in and out from banging against the side of the boat. The chopper hovered above us and flashed its lights, we all let out a mighty scream and burst into tears; the relief was unbelievable.”
One by one, the Hugo’s were winched from the freezing water safely into the helicopter. Overwhelmed, exhausted but in good health, they were taken back to Rockhampton where they were reunited with their friends.
“The fact I still have my three great kids who have turned into funny, kind, caring adults, is why I will be forever grateful to RACQ CapRescue. Because without them I am fairly certain we wouldn’t have made it.”