Being prepared saved paddlers

TWO canoeists said obeying the rules and attention to detail had saved their lives in the Murray River this week.

Most importantly, they were wearing their life jackets.

Burrumbuttock’s Chip Eling and North Albury’s Martin Stevens struck trouble when their canoe capsized on the Murray River on Tuesday.

And while they said being prepared was the difference between life and death, they had also made some fundamental mistakes.

They were paddling about a kilometre downstream from Doctors Point when they hit a strong current and were dragged into a snag.

Mr Eling, 56, popped to the surface, while Mr Stevens, 57, was pulled back down into the depths of the river twice as a strong underwater current gripped at his ankles.

“I did panic a bit,” Mr Stevens said. “I thought if I didn’t get out of the river I might drown and it was lucky I was wearing a life jacket.”

As Mr Stevens struggled, Mr Eling held on to the canoe as it drifted downstream.

He eventually managed to scramble back into the canoe.

Mr Stevens swam about 50 metres to the shore.

The current was too strong for Mr Eling to paddle back to his partner, so he yelled at him to walk upstream — when he meant to say downstream.

Mr Stevens followed his instructions, thinking he wanted him to walk back to their car.

And he ended up completely lost when he followed a tributary of the river.

Two kilometres later, he baulked at entering a paddock where there was a large bull and decided to wait for help on the shore.

In the meantime, Mr Eling had called for help on his mobile phone he had wrapped in plastic.

The pair were full of praise for their rescuers and strongly urge others to wear life jackets.

“The river is fun but you need to treat it with great respect,” Mr Eling said.

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