Sunday, November 22, 2009

We have been involved in a big and long-awaited project of re-roofing our lovely St Barnabas Chapel. and I will tell you all about that in another posting.

At the same time we have been replacing the timber fence along the road. With the old fencing, and the crates from the tiles, and other building and bush rubbish, the boys built an enormous bonfire in the paddock.
The other night, Chris and the boys who have come from Sydney to work on the roof decided that it would be a good idea to have a barbecue for all those who have taken an interest or been involved in any way. We started in the early evening with a game of Rounders (a great tradition on Norfolk at picnics and family occasions in the early days.)
This was the first drama. Poor Rod had only just gone onto the field, hit the ball, and while running to the first base managed to "do" his hamstring, resulting in a trip to the hospital. He later returned with ice, painkillers and crutches!

Meanwhile the children had fun on the swings and see-saw...
And others tried out the "Horizontal Bungee Jump" that Chris had rigged up from old inner tubes!
We enjoyed a delicious barbecue - and the three fellows shown here, as well as a couple of others who were there that night, had no idea that they were to be involved in an incredible drama later that night. The picture shows Darren, Chris, and Glen.

We had just finished our meal when we saw they had lit the bonfire in the paddock. We all gathered round to watch the enormous blaze..

After watching for a while, we drifted back to the barbecue ...and then the fire brigade arrived, acting on reports by phone from a number of people of the enormous conflagration in the area of the Chapel. The fire-ies saw that all was well and the fire engines were returned to their home at the airport. About this time. a little bit of rain started to fall, and we all cheered, because the island has been very dry for some weeks.
Now this is where the story starts to take an interesting turn.
Bernie and I were returning home about later in the evening, and as we passed the airport, we saw that all the lights were on both in the terminal and on the runway. We discussed what plane may be due - certainly not one of our usual scheduled flights, unless there had been delays. We noticed that the main street was quite wet, but the clouds seemed to have passed on and the sky was clear again.
We were just going off to sleep that night, when the phone rang. It was our son John, who said he and his mates were just putting out to sea in "Gran Lady" to look for the passengers of a Medivac flight which had been forced to ditch into the ocean when it ran out of fuel. It was flying a sick lady from Samoa, and had been given a good weather report from Norfolk Island and clearance to re-fuel here. However, the fog and clouds had come down quite suddenly and the visibility was too poor for the pilot to land. After two failed attempts and some circling, he realised he was very low in fuel and had no choice but to go into the sea, with the 5 other passengers - his co-pilot, two medicos and the sick lady and her husband.
Darren (who had been to the barbecue) - was the first boat into the water, and he had with him Chris, and also Glen, who is the airport manager. John and the others in Gran Lady were ten minutes later into the water, because they took time to take on large quantities of fuel, in case the search should prove to be extensive. The police directed both boats to head south towards Phillip Island, where the plane had last been seen.
Now a young fellow Scott,who had been in the fire crew who had come on the false alarm to investigate our fire, had heard all the news at the airport when they returned with the engines. Scott decided to take a longer route home around the coast on the offchance that he may see something - and off to the west of the island, he spotted some lights in the water. He relayed this information through, and the boats were advised to divert to this area. Darren and his mates found them quite quickly. With 3 or 4 lifejackets between them (there had been no time for the crew), they were treading water a couple of nautical miles off the island and the plane lay about 40 metres below. What is amazing is that the sharks had left them alone!
About an hour after his first call, John rang to tell us the good news, that all 6 were safe and well, and had been able to walk on the pier, although they were shocked and shaken.
So it may be that our bonfire was a blessing - call it luck, coincidence, or God's protection - but that fellow may never have seen those lights if he had not been called out on that false alarm to our bonfire!

1 comment:

Karen said...

Wow, drama indeed. Others might call it luck I call it divine intervention. Thank God they were all found alive and well if a bit shaken. I hope the lady who was being medivaced came out of it okay as well.

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