Boy lost at sea makes stunning recovery

A seven-year-old Queensland boy who was declared dead by rescuers after being lost at sea in freezing waters for six hours has spoken of his miraculous survival.

In June, Julian Hohnen, father Maike Hohnen and his friend Stephen Jeacock took off for an overnight fishing trip off the Sunshine Coast.

Speaking to Sunday Night, Mr Hohen said disaster struck when he woke in the middle of the night to discover his feet were wet.

The boat's anchor had tangled around the boat's propeller, causing the rear of the boat to be pulled underwater.

From there, a tub containing flares and life jackets was plunged underwater as the boat rolled over and began sinking, all within seconds of the trio waking up.

Managing to free themselves of the sinking vessel, the group's only flotation devices were two upside-down white buckets.

Julian said he squeezed on one of the buckets "really hard", with Mr Hohnen revealing the boy tried to comfort his father.

Julian survived six hours in freezing waters.
Julian survived six hours in freezing waters.

"Julian calmed me down and said, 'It will be alright, Dad,' (pointing) towards Caloundra and said, 'Oh, we just have to swim that way, Dad,'" he told Sunday Night's Matt Doran.

"Six hours is pretty long. And on two buckets, floating out at sea, getting not rescued, waiting to get that. I'm actually waiting," Julian said.

But Julian soon fell silent as his father held his head as best he could above the choppy water, clinging to a bucket. Mr Jeacock held onto the other bucket, trying his best to shield the father and son from breaking waves.

Miraculously, Mr Jeacock had managed to grab his phone as the ship sunk and dialled triple-0 as they bobbed in the shark-infested waters, but wild weather meant a rescue chopper had to wait until 6am to take off.

By then Julian's "arms and legs were frozen," while his head was "thrown back" and the child could only manage small gasps of breath.

The young boy has a love of fishing.
The young boy has a love of fishing.

"He stopped talking. The only way I could know he's still with me (was) because he was breathing, and he responded to my request to spit the water out. He was in a very, very bad shape, and I thought it would have been minutes," Mr Hohnen said.

Distraught, Mr Hohnen said he didn't want to live if his son didn't make it.

"(I thought), if he stops breathing, I just let the bucket go … I know if he goes, I'm going with him," he said.

"If he stops breathing, I just let go of the bucket and I don't want to live myself."

With Julian "within minutes of dying" a rescue chopper arrived, but doctors weren't confident the boy would survive.

With no pulse and medically dead for almost four minutes, Julian was rushed to Queensland Children's Hospital in a critical condition.

Suffering from severe hypothermia, Julian was placed in an induced coma. Hospital doctor Christian Stocker said medical staff had only "a small hope" he would survive without brain damage.

But against all odds after 18 hours Julian woke from his coma and spoke to his parents and has since going on to make a full recovery.

Julian has also gone back to fishing with his dad and shrugs off questions from his classmates about what happened, directing their questions elsewhere.

"(I tell them), 'You can look on the news,'" he said.

Watch Julian's story on Sunday Night in full on 7Plus

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit In an emergency, call triple-0


Mr Hohnen became convinced his son was “minutes from dying”
Mr Hohnen became convinced his son was “minutes from dying”