World

Australian tourist uses surfboard to save group after two days at sea

An Australian tourist paddled his surfboard to an island in Indonesia after a boat carrying three of his friends and three Indonesian crew members was missing for two days.

Elliot Foote, his partner Steph Weisse, and friends Will Teagle and Jordan Short, along with three Indonesians, were in the boat in waters around Sarang Alu and Banyak islands, off Indonesia’s Aceh province.

The wooden speedboat ran into bad weather and heavy rain after leaving Nias island on Sunday, and did not arrive at its destination of Pinang island.

Two days later, the four Australian tourists and two of the Indonesian crew members were rescued.

The three other Australians were found clinging to their boards in the sea. It is not clear how the Indonesians managed to survive.

One Indonesian crew member is still missing, according to the head of the local rescue agency.

It is also not known how the boat ended up in the sea.

Rescuers prepare for the search of a speedboat carrying Indonesian and Australian nationals. Pic: AP
Image:
Pic: AP

The father of Mr Foote, who travelled to the country to celebrate his 30th birthday, said he has received a text message from his son saying he is okay.

“It says: ‘Hey Dad, Elliot here. I’m alive. Safe now. Love you. Chat later,'” Peter Foote told a news conference in Sydney.

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“It’s great, it’s good news. I’ll have to talk to him and want to see photos and see what he looks like. It’s all good.”

The tourists were part of a group of 12 Australians and five Indonesians in two boats that were travelling to Pinang island – a destination known for its pristine beach and good waves for surfing.

Peter Foote. Pic: AuBC
Image:
Peter Foote. Pic: AuBC via AP

The six who were rescued were taken to the island for further medical assistance.

The other boat, carrying 10 passengers, arrived on the island safely after deciding to shelter on Sarang Alu island.

Mr Foote said his son and his friends are planning to continue the final eight days of their surfing trip.

Boats and ferries are a common form of transportation in Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands.

But relaxed safety standards and overcrowding problems often mean accidents occur frequently.

Last month, 15 people died after an overloaded passenger boat capsized off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

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