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Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Shark scare couple relive ordeal
Gordon Pratley and Louise Woodger
Being found was as good as winning the Ashes, Mr Pratley said
Two British divers rescued from shark-infested Australian waters have spoken of their six-hour ordeal.

Gordon Pratley, 31, and his fiancee Louise Woodger, 29, from Suffolk, became separated from their dive group on the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday.

They were found exhausted and suffering from hypothermia nearly 10km from where they entered the water on Saturday.

Asked how it felt to be rescued, Mr Pratley said: "It was as good as it gets - as good as winning the Ashes."

The pair said they had never given up hope.

Local tour

Ms Woodger said at one point she spotted a shark circling the pair, but did not tell her fiance until after they were rescued.

Coastguard Jon Colless said the Britons were at risk from the "large sharks".

He said Louise had seen a reef shark, which is relatively harmless, but the couple were on the lookout for the dangerous tiger shark.

Speaking from her home in Mildenhall, Suffolk, Miss Woodger's mother Jane said: "The first I knew was when I received a call from her, telling me she was safe.

"It hasn't really sunk in. They had finished working in Sydney and were travelling before heading back home at some point next year."

The couple had joined a local tour and went diving on Wheeler Reef, about 90km (55 miles) from Townsville.

Gordon Pratley and Louise Woodger
Coastguards said the couple were in danger from large sharks

But strong currents pulled them away from the rest of the group.

When they resurfaced, they realised they could not see anyone else from their party, said Richard Boulton from the Townsville Coastguard.

'Freakishly lucky'

Mr Boulton said the divers did not try to struggle against the strong current but inflated their life jackets and clung to each other.

Coastguards said Miss Woodger and Mr Pratley were "freakishly lucky" to have survived.

The skipper of their boat immediately noticed they were missing and alerted the police and coastguard to launch a search by sea and air.

The couple could see the rescue helicopters and boats but could not attract their attention.

Finally, the pair were found by their original dive boat and brought back to safety.

Miss Woodger worked as a nurse at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Mr Pratley worked in Newmarket before they decided to travel to New Zealand and Australia in 2002.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the rescue operation unfolded



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