A FATHER and his two children sang to each other to keep calm as they clung to a tree in the middle of Lake Hume for six hours on Wednesday night after their boat capsized.
Damian Wilson, 38, from Lancefield, took his daughter Caitlyn, 11, and son Bailey, 8, fishing during a school holiday trip to visit Mr Wilson’s Thurgoona partner.
Mr Wilson spoke to his partner on his mobile at 5.30pm to tell her they were not far from meeting her at the Bowna Reserve boat ramp.
Ten minutes later they ran into trouble — and weren’t rescued until 11.30pm.
“I don’t know if we hit something or what happened,” Mr Wilson said yesterday.
The boat began to fill with water and, with all three wearing life-jackets, Mr Wilson and his children jumped into water with a temperature of about 12 degrees and left the boat behind.
He spotted a tree about 100 metres away and told Caitlyn to swim there while he pushed Bailey along in front of him.
They all climbed up into the fork of a tree and out of the water and huddled there as night closed in.
Back on shore Mr Wilson’s partner Melissa, who did not give her last name, knew something was wrong when Mr Wilson’s phone was dead only 10 minutes after she last spoke to him.
She waited before frantic worry took over and she phoned police.
By 8pm, a full-scale search involving Albury’s police, Volunteer Rescue Association and State Emergency Service was launched.
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All the while, the Wilsons clung to the tree and all a father could do was whisper assurances to his two young children.
“I just said ‘They’ll find us. Sit there and be patient and they’ll find us’,” Mr Wilson said from his partner’s Thurgoona home last night.
Bailey began to fall asleep and Mr Wilson tried to keep them awake by going through the catalogue of songs they knew, including Bailey’s rendition of the Collingwood Football Club anthem and Caitlyn’s version of a One Direction song.
“I was trying to keep them occupied,” Mr Wilson said.
Three hours later they saw the lights of search crews and started yelling out for help.
It wasn’t until 11.30pm that two SES volunteers found the family, who by that time were suffering mild hypothermia.
Last night, Mr Wilson was operating on two hours’ sleep and he said they were exhausted, but otherwise in good health.
“We’re just tired,” he said.
“The kids are OK, but I’m just tired.
“I just brought the kids up on school holidays and thought we’d go fishing. It wasn’t a good idea.”
Bailey was most concerned about his tackle box he last saw floating away from him.
Mr Wilson thanked his partner, police, VRA and SES volunteers for their help.