Jet ski rider attracts help with SpongeBob SquarePants shorts


Police have warned jet skiers to carry the correct safety equipment, after Eric Bettanin was rescued when his jet ski broke down and drifted out to sea.
Source: HWT Image Library

Eric Bettanin

Jet skier Eric Bettanin contemplates his survival with the help of a pair of loud SpongeBob SquarePants shorts. Picture: Alison Wynd, The Geelong Advertiser
Source: HWT Image Library

A MAN who survived nine hours drifting on a broken-down jet ski off the Surf Coast used a pair of SpongeBob SquarePants boardshorts to attract help.

Eric Bettanin, 29, was wearing the yellow boardshorts on his head as he waved to a rescue boat while drifting helplessly off the notorious Port Phillip Heads at dawn yesterday.

Mr Bettanin, who is holidaying on the Surf Coast, told the Geelong Advertiser he placed them on his head to keep himself warm and attract attention.

”As silly as it sounds they made quite a significant difference to my core temperature,” he said. ”When I stood up and started waving I had them on my head.

”I bought them the other day as a bit of a joke.”

His ordeal began when his craft broke down off Torquay late on Monday and was swept out to sea.

He spent the night adrift before being rescued.

”There was no better sight than that big orange Coast Guard boat coming straight towards me,” he said.

Police said yesterday Mr Bettanin was lucky to be alive. Water Police Sgt Nathan Gardiner said the conditions at the time were ”treacherous”.

”Given the choppy seas, strong winds and the man’s light clothing he is extremely fortunate to have survived,” he said.

Sgt Gardiner described the search operation as ”substantial”.

”The police air wing was involved from the start, as was our 17m launch Fearless based at Queenscliff,” he said.

He said the minimum safety requirement for jet skiers under the Marine Act and Regulations was a type three life jacket – which Mr Bettanin had – and a waterproof buoyant torch.

Jet skiers who intend to travel more than two nautical miles (3.7km) from land must also have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon).

“(I’m) unsure about the torch. They are making some inquires about that,” Acting Sgt Gardiner said.

“That equipment is the minimum. Our advice is that it would definitely be prudent to have an EPIRB, distress flares on board.

“I don’t really think that’s an issue in regards to the EPIRB in these circumstances.”

Mr Bettanin faces a $153 fine if police discover he didn’t have a torch.

He was taken to Geelong Hospital with suspected mild hypothermia and released mid-morning.

– with Amelia Harris

Read more at the Geelong Advertiser

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