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Grandfather’s close call after slipping off Portsea Pier


A great-grandfather has thanked three men who saved his life after he tumbled off a Victorian pier and into the bay.

John Mirabelli was fishing off Portsea Pier last month when he lost his footing and fell into the ocean.

A quick-thinking surfer and two police officers joined forces to bring the 88-year-old back to dry land.

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John Mirabelli was fishing off Portsea Pier last month when he lost his footing and fell into the ocean. (9News)

“I thought I was gone, because when I fell in, I went straight down,” Mirabelli told 9News.

”If it was not for you, I would not be alive.”

Wearing gumboots and a raincoat, Mirabelli was waterlogged for close to an hour and clinging to a slippery pylon.

Local surfer Ben Buxton luckily walked by, noticing the 88-year-old clinging on for his life.

“I looked over and I saw John holding onto a little wire and the look on his face, it was kinda terrifying, because he appeared to only have a few moments left until he had to let go of the wire,” Buxton said.

“I just thought if I can get a board to where John is then he’s possibly got a chance.”

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Mirabelli was rescued by a local surfer and two police officers. (9News)

As he paddled over to Mirabelli, police officers Oliver Waters and Adam Gardner arrived, after a call went through to triple zero.

Between them, Ben and Oliver convinced Mirabelli to hold onto the board.

For close to 20 minutes, they floated him around the pier to where he could safely climb up a small ladder.

”In that time, we were talking to John to try and get him relaxed,” Buxton said.

“And he kept talking about the calamari that he’d had to let go when he’d fallen into the pier.”

After a stint in hospital, Mirabelli was reunited with his three rescuers.

”It’s special for us, we really appreciate the chance to catch up with John again,” Waters told 9News.

“He’s a lovely man.”

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John Mirabelli has been reunited with his rescuers. (9News)

Mirabelli has fished at the same spot for decades, and said he wouldn’t be scared away anytime soon.

The 88-year-old has already been back a couple of times, still searching for the calamari that got away that day.

“That calamari has got a second chance too?” he said.

“Next time I’ll fix him up – if it’s the same one.”



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