‘It felt like hours’: Father’s terror at realizing his son was trapped under a capsized boat

Jeremy Rema and his family managed to pull their boat to shore after it capsized, trapping Rema's son inside.

Jeremy Rema/Supplied

Jeremy Rema and his family managed to pull their boat to shore after it capsized, trapping Rema’s son inside.

A father has described his horror when he realized his 8-year-old son was trapped in his capsized boat.

Jeremy Rema was returning from a family fishing trip when his vessel capsized near Eastbournethrowing him and three others into the water and trapping his son in the cabin of the upside-down, sinking vessel.

The Belmont, Lower Hutt, resident said terror was all he could feel when he realized his son was still in the sinking vessel – but he knew he had to act quickly to save his son’s life.

He knew they had to get the 4.8 meter boat to shore, so they started pushing the vessel to land, making sure the bow, where the boy was trapped, remained above water.

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It took around 20 minutes but it felt like “hours,” Rema said. The entire time the men were speaking to the boy inside.

The day started out as a happy family fishing trip. Rema, his son, and three relatives had been fishing and diving in Wellington Harbor early on Sunday afternoon, but then the weather turned nasty.

The family decided to return to Eastbourne Beach, but while heading back a large wave splashed into the boat, covering the motor and causing the engine to seize.

That was when the vessel filled with water and started to sink, Rema said. Soon after, a wave caused the vessel to flip, throwing the men into the ocean, and trapping the child in an air pocket in the vessel’s bow.

Jeremy Rema's 8-year-old son was rescued from the cabin of an upside-down boat on Sunday.

Jeremy Rema

Jeremy Rema’s 8-year-old son was rescued from the cabin of an upside-down boat on Sunday.

As they pushed the boat back the men just kept on trying to talk to the trapped child. “So we could hear his voice.”

By the time the police appeared, the exhausted family reached the shore and managed to flip the boat with the help of onlookers.

Wellington Maritime Unit constable Kit Oliver-Harkness was one of the officers who arrived at the scene, after receiving a call that a boat had capsized 20 meters offshore.

He jumped onto the boat, removed a large chilly bin in front of the cabin door and went inside.

There was only a small amount of air left and he found the boy “tucked” at the end of the cabin.

“I leaned forward and said ‘come on mate’ and he just launched [at me]. I grabbed him and held on tight, and off we went.”

Wellington maritime unit constable Kit Oliver-Harkness pulled the eight-year-old from the vessel.

JUAN ZARAMA PERINI

Wellington maritime unit constable Kit Oliver-Harkness pulled the eight-year-old from the vessel.

The constable said he was just happy everyone came out of the ordeal unscratched. The boy was strong, a “tough little dude” who seemed to have recovered quickly.

The boat had most likely capsized due to multiple holes having been drilled in the well attached to the motor. The skipper, although experienced, had just purchased the vessel and was not aware of the issues with it.

Rema said he was grateful to all the onlookers on Eastbourne Beach for their kindness. “A lovely couple” took his son to their home and gave him clothes and a shower, calming the cold and scared boy.

While the experience had been traumatic and tough to process, Rema said all that mattered was his son – an experienced sailor, and “the bravest kid” – was safe.

Eastbourne resident Cesar Koene was walking his dog along Eastbourne beach when he noticed four men “screaming” for help in the water while trying to pull a vessel to shore.

Koene helped pull the boat to shore and said the men had done an amazing job of keeping the boat above water.

“You know, it was a struggle, and yet none of them gave up.”

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