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TRAWLER TRAGEDY: Family holding out hope for 'miracle'

LOVING FATHER: Missing fisherman Eli Tonks with his two children.
LOVING FATHER: Missing fisherman Eli Tonks with his two children. Contributed

UPDATE 3.37PM: The fiancee of missing fisherman Eli Tonks, 39, says she is still holding out hope he's "kicked back on one of the islands with a coconut in hand".

Mr Tonks' family released a statement through police this afternoon.

"We are thankful for everyone's support and grateful for the search efforts being made, however ask for privacy and compassion during this extremely difficult time," the statement read.

"We have not given up hope, and will not give up until they are found.

"Eli is a beloved partner, son, brother, friend and loving father of two."

HOLDING OUT HOPE: Missing fisherman Eli Tonks (centre) with his brother (left) and father.
HOLDING OUT HOPE: Missing fisherman Eli Tonks (centre) with his brother (left) and father. Contributed

Mr Tonks' fiancee Ana James said he is "full of love, compassion and emotion" and is "one of the strongest, most kind-hearted people."

"(Eli) is a machine. Friends and family know he would not give up without a fight," she said.

"Most of us continue to hold on to hope that he's kicked back on one of the islands with a coconut in hand - because that's the kind of guy he is. Fearless and capable of anything."

Ruben McDornan, who was rescued from waters in Bustard Bay on Tuesday morning, would like to thank the community for their support at this extremely difficult time, according to Queensland Police.

Mr McDornan was reunited with his wife and mother at Gladstone Airport this afternoon and has been assisting police in the search for the six remaining crew.

A police statement said Mr McDornan was very distressed after the incident and was concerned for the welfare of his missing friends and their families.

He and his family wish to thank everyone for their thoughts and support and asked for privacy.

 

REUNION: Capsized trawler survivor Ruben McDornan is reunited with his wife Sammy and his mother after landing at Gladstone Airport.
REUNION: Capsized trawler survivor Ruben McDornan is reunited with his wife Sammy and his mother after landing at Gladstone Airport. Liam Kidston

2.40pm:

POLICE coordinating the rescue of six commercial fishermen lost at sea said it would be a "miracle" if the men were found alive.

The search and rescue team is preparing to move from a rescue operation to a recovery phase, with sonar equipment and divers expected to arrive in Gladstone this afternoon.

Search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Jeff Barnett said the divers would help search for the vessel.

The sole survivor of the trawler capsize, Ruben McDornan, is "distraught and very upset", Gladstone Police Inspector Darren Somerville said.

Survivor Ruben McDornan’s wife Sammy and his mother.
Survivor Ruben McDornan’s wife Sammy and his mother.

 

Mr McDornan was reunited with his wife Sammy and his mum earlier today at the Gladstone Airport.

Insp Somerville said Mr McDornan would stay in the area to assist with the search.

"He's lost six of his best mates, he doesn't know where they are," Insp Somerville said.

"Obviously (his mum and wife) were ecstatic to see him and he was very relieved to see them as well.

"He has been very helpful (to police).

"We're still hoping there could be some sort of miracle, but it would be that, it would be a miracle if we were to find someone alive."

 

Dianne skipper Ben Leahy
Dianne skipper Ben Leahy

Earlier today:

TWELVE vessels, two helicopters, two fixed wing aircraft, numerous vehicles and prayers for a miracle are behind the desperate search for six men who were inside a fishing vessel when it flipped on Monday night.

Ruben McDornan, so far the only survivor from the vessel capsize near Middle Island, was reunited with his wife Sammy yesterday and gave his statement to Agnes Water Police as the search for his six mates continued.

Police confirmed yesterday Adam Hoffman, a 30-year-old from Clifton Beach in Cairns, 39-year-old Eli Tonks, 45-year-old Ben Leahy, 28-year-old Zach Feeney, 34-year-old Chris Sammut and 33-year-old Adam Bidner are the six missing crewmen.

Ruben McDornan suffered cuts, bruises and was suffering from exposure after spending 12 hours in rough seas.
Ruben McDornan suffered cuts, bruises and was suffering from exposure after spending 12 hours in rough seas.

Weather conditions are still hindering search efforts however conditions are expected to improve around midday.

Police are appealing to any vessels in the search area to contact police if they have any information that may assist with the search.

Gladstone Water Police Sergeant Jeff Barnett compared the serious marine incident to the rescue scale of the 2011 tug boat roll over in the Gladstone Harbour.

 

The tug boat, called Adonis, had four men on board when it was working with a second tug to relocate a barge when it capsized on June 11.

Three were rescued, but the tug's master Dudley Jacobs lost his life.

Sgt Barnett, the search and rescue coordinator, said every available asset capable of taking on the harsh conditions was utilised.

But he said the "timeframe of survival" had become very slim by yesterday afternoon.

"The best case scenario is we find six people on a life raft, but it's not looking promising," Sgt Barnett said.

Search equipment not normally seen in regional areas, including sonar and specialised divers will be used later this week.

 

Sergeant Jeff Barnett.Media update for the missing fishing boat crew.
Sergeant Jeff Barnett.Media update for the missing fishing boat crew. Mike Richards GLA181017PRESS

The search has expanded to more than 550 kilometres from Agnes Water to Gladstone Harbour.

For RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter chief operating officer Brian Guthrie the search effort is personal because Mr Leahy is a "good friend".

Mr Guthrie said Mr Leahy has more than 20 years of experience on fishing trawlers and has worked on the 17m diving vessel Dianne for "years".

"If anyone has a good chance it's Ben," he said.

 

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter chief operating officer Brian Guthrie
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter chief operating officer Brian Guthrie MARSDEN LUKE

Mr Guthrie said the tragedy brought Mr Leahy's friends and family closer together.

"When you see the amount of messages I've been getting, and I'm just on the side of things, I can only imagine how much support his family is getting and I hope they see that and are feeling that," Mr Guthrie said.

Gladstone Police inspector Darren Somerville said some of the families of the crewmen arrived in Gladstone yesterday and were briefed on the search mission.

A statement from Queensland Police said, "the families expressed their appreciation for the work that is currently being done in relation to the search for the missing men and the thoughts of the community".

Topics:  editors picks fishing missing trawler



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