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QUEENSLAND, Australia — An Australian yachtsman is counting his blessings after he was discovered stranded off the New South Wales coast by the passengers of a passenger jet.
The yacht, low on fuel, had been drifting away from land for a week, according to 44-year-old yachtsman Glenn Ey. An Air Canada jet en route from Vancouver to Sydney was asked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to divert to the area where Ey's emergency beacon was spotted to help pinpoint his location.
"There's a ship, a yacht in distress, may have sunk, and you are the closest aircraft. Would you be able to assist," Capt. Andrew Robertson was told by the AMSA. Robertson determined he had enough fuel and changed routes.
"I made a PA announcement to ask the passengers (to watch for the boat) because it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," Robertson told the CBC.
The flight crew borrowed binoculars from passengers and kept an eye out for Ey as Robertson took the plane down to about 5,000 feet. He said his first officer spotted the yacht almost immediately.
AMSA told the Sydney Morning Herald it is unusual for passenger planes to be enlisted in rescue operations.
Ey told the Calgary Sun he never actually saw the plane — he had gone below deck to wait, hoping for a miracle.
"I'm forever grateful to those on board that jet — please thank Canada for keeping an eye out for me," he said.
The man's boat had overturned in a storm 16 hours before the rescue, snapping the main mast into three pieces.
"It was pretty frightening, mate," he said.