Haunted by horror of mate's plunge into sea

BROTHER-IN-ARMS: Mike Cathcart holds the order of service from the funeral of his mate George Greening, who drowned while fishing at Raglan.
BROTHER-IN-ARMS: Mike Cathcart holds the order of service from the funeral of his mate George Greening, who drowned while fishing at Raglan.

Mike Cathcart couldn't shake off the sounds of his friend and fishing companion drowning in the dark waters off Raglan wharf.

Every night, the scraping noise came back, and the splash. Then George Greening shouting his last words out of the darkness: "Mike! I'm drowning!"

July has been a hell of a month for Mr Cathcart.

The 35-year-old was living a strange existence from the night of Mr Greening's death through to his funeral at Newstead two weeks later.

Alcohol and sleeping pills drowned out the sounds each night until he farewelled his former brother-in-arms on July 23.

Later that night, strangers attacked and stomped an inebriated Mr Cathcart, so there's a long split still healing on the back of his head as he recalls the jovial night out fishing that ended in death.

Mr Cathcart and Mr Greening met years ago while serving in the army at Waiouru.

They stayed in touch after signing out of service and ended up on opposite sides of Hamilton, at Enderley and Nawton.

They still shared the bond that's forged between soldiers and the pair became close friends.

On Sunday, July 7, the turn of the high tide, the weather, and schedules aligned for their first fishing trip together at Raglan wharf.

Mr Cathcart says they were in a jovial mood during the evening and drank a single 250ml can of bourbon and cola each before driving west in Mr Greening's Ford about 11pm.

They set up their tackle on a popular fishing spot that pokes into the harbour channel from the end of the Raglan wharf.

The first cast of the trip went to Mr Greening and it would be his last.

Mr Cathcart didn't see what happened, but he heard a scraping noise and turned to see his friend plunging off the wharf into the freezing winter tide.

"I said, ‘George, you all right?' " Mr Cathcart said.

"He was trying to swim and once the current caught him, he was trying to swim straight into it - I could see he wasn't getting anywhere."

Mr Cathcart's first thought was to dive in, yet "something" stopped him.

He ran down the wharf, ripped off his jacket and started swimming out to try to reach his friend.

Neither man was a strong swimmer.

Mr Greening also weighed well over 100 kilograms and was wearing a bulky jacket.

"I could hear him calling out to me, ‘Mike! I think I'm drowning! Mike Mike . . .'

"But I was starting to get pulled under myself. I was yelling out, ‘George, hold on. I'll be back'."

Mr Cathcart says he jumped on to a nearby fishing boat, grabbed a life ring and ran back to the rocks.

He called out again - but no sound came back.

Mr Cathcart swam out, found his friend and managed to drag him to some rocks.

"I was trying to cradle him and give him mouth to mouth at the same time but, due to the angle, I couldn't get a good thump on his chest.

"I did that for I don't know how long."

He eventually ran to a nearby house and dialled 111. An ambulance arrived, and the fire brigade pulled Mr Greening out of the sea.

Mr Cathcart has turned every action from the night over in his mind and he thinks a safety rail would have averted Mr Greening's death.

It had promised to be a great night's fishing, Mr Cathcart said. "When [Cathcart's fiancee] Sarah came home from work, she saw the big grin at the end of the driveway, bouncing, saying, ‘we're going fishing'.

"He [Greening] was in a really good mood. He had one of those grins, an awesome smile."

Waikato Times