A DISTRAUGHT Andrew "ET" Ettingshausen says that he's been so rocked by the tragic death of the "ultimate crew" that saved his life that he has felt insecure on the water since.
Speaking for the first time since the Dianne slug boat sank, killing six crew in October, the former rugby league legend and veteran fishing show host told The Courier-Mail he was struggling to comprehend how the experienced crew, whose "lives were on the Reef", had died.
Ettingshausen said he owed his life to Dianne's skipper Ben Leahy, who fed him oxygen after his regulator failed 30m underwater while filming a Discovery Channel documentary with the crew three years ago.
"I still can't believe it. It's so tragic," he said.
"Ben, really, he saved my life up there. I had a bit of a malfunction with my regulator and I was down 30m. It wasn't real good.
"At one stage, I'd almost said goodbye to my family. I just thought I don't think I'm going to make it through here. Ben came to my rescue and I was able to make it to the top in the end."
Police divers recovered the bodies of Mr Leahy and Adam Hoffman from the sunken vessel off the coast of central Queensland, from which Ruben McDornan was the sole survivor.
Adam Bidner, Zachary Feeney, Chris Sammut and Eli Tonks have not been found.
"It was just unbelievable to hear that they could possibly capsize. I just couldn't believe it because I had been on the boat and knew how stringent they were with all their processes," Ettingshausen said.
"Their whole lives were out there on the Reef, basically fishing day to day and diving every day.
"They were down under water most of the time, more than above water, so to actually hear that tragedy, it just rocked me."
"Even when I go out on the water now I've just got that, I don't know, I feel even more insecure now because these guys were the ultimate crew and skipper.
"Sometimes things go wrong and it must have happened onboard because they couldn't get off it. And one guy getting out ... saying he could hear the banging of the crew underneath, to me that's just the worst of the worst."
Despite the documentary footage of the 2015 Saltwater Heroes series being brought to light since the trawler sank, Ettingshausen - who at the time was working to release a book - chose not to speak about the incident out of respect for the lost men.
"If you have that sort of thing happen to you in your life you just don't want to have that constant reminder, so I sort of steered clear just for that reason, just with the family in mind," he said.
"I didn't know any of the family personally and I didn't have anyone to contact, so I felt my best role was not to comment."
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