Kekly TARI, Danny SHEATHER and Dexter BONG





Video footage of the men heading out -

Search continues for missing Qld fishermen

A man has been rescued but police have "serious concerns" for three people after they failed to return from a far north Queensland fishing trip.

The 36-year-old Tongan national is believed to have been in the water for about 30 hours before being spotted clinging to a buoy off the Queensland coast by an aerial search.

He is currently being treated for hypothermia and exposure in Innisfail Hospital.


A "significant" search continues for another three men who were on what was supposed to be an overnight fishing trip with the 36-year-old.

The four men had set off from Mission Beach on Friday.

"We will continue with our search...and make another decision ...tomorrow," Acting Inspector Brett Jenkins told reporters.

"If they are still in the water we do hold serious concerns for their welfare."

Emergency services launched an aerial, water and land search early on Sunday morning when notified by the men's family they had not returned.

The missing men are a 24-year-old "local" who owns the boat and two Vanuatu nationals, aged 26 and 31.

Police believe their boat experienced engine trouble when returning on Saturday before taking in water and sinking quickly near the Barnard Island Group National Park north of Mission Beach.

After failing to activate the boat's EPIRB, the men are believed to have attempted to swim to an island, Acting Insp Jenkins said.

The 36-year-old was found at about 4.30pm on Sunday by a helicopter search and rescued by nearby water police.

He provided information on where the boat sank, helping pinpoint the search, Acting Insp Jenkins said.


"We are still concentrating our search on the ... coastline in the event that any of the missing persons have made it to shore," he said.

Australian Associated Press

Missing boaties: Police ’no longer hold out hope’ of locating men

A confronting reality has played out in a search for three fishermen lost off the coast of Cowley Beach for 12 days as police issue a final statement.

Arun Singh Mann and Peter Carruthers


UPDATE MONDAY 12.30PM: TEN days after Mission Beach man Danny Sheather’s boat sunk near the Barnard Islands in the Coral Sea, police has scaled back its search effort for the three missing men.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman on Monday confirmed there had been no significant discoveries since the search for Mr Sheather, and Vanuatu men Kekly Tari and Dexter Bong was moved into the Flying Fish Point area on Friday.

She confirmed the fourth crew member – Tongan man Siosiua Asi – had been released from hospital and was recovering at home.

The spokeswoman said police were still appealing for anyone with any information and said members of the public were being encouraged to photograph anything they see that could assist police investigations.

UPDATE FRIDAY 1PM: SEARCH efforts for three missing fisherman have moved north by about 50km from their original departure point, one week after they set off.

The search for Danny Sheather, 24, from Mission Beach and Vanuatu men Kekly Tari and Dexter Bong on Friday had been “scaled back” to local Queensland Police Services only, with the crew deployed along the Cowley Beach and Flying Fish Point foreshore areas.

It is understood police consulted marine experts before moving on from Etty Bay where they spent multiple days earlier in the week to no avail, before commencing efforts at Flying Fish Point.

Cassowary Coast Patrol Group Acting Inspector Brett Jenkins said the families of the missing men, and the man who has been rescued – Tongan national Siosiua Asi had all been updated and were “being kept informed regularly”.

“There has been no further items of any investigative value located,” he said.

“This will remain the situation for today (Friday) and the weekend at this stage.

“Members of the public who may find any items of interest are asked to report to their local police stations or via Police Link on 131444.”

The men had departed Clump Point on Friday, July 8 and were reported missing on Sunday after their boat suffered engine failure and sunk between the Barnard Islands and a Reef about 35km east of Cowley.

Mr Asi was rescued about 4.30pm Sunday, found to be clinging to a buoy and an Esky for over 30 hours and suffering from exposure to the elements and hypothermia.

UPDATE: 3.15PM WEDNESDAY: A VETERAN boatie has labelled Siosiua Asi’s survival after 30 hours clinging to an Esky in freezing seas off Cowley Beach an “incredible feat”.

Roly Newton, who has fished in Cassowary Coast waters for more than half a century, said the Tongan national would have battled severe temperatures and fatigue in the lead up to his astonishing rescue on Sunday.

On Wednesday the search for three men, Danny Sheather, 24, from Mission Beach and Vanuatu men Kekly Tari and Dexter Bong continued with the efforts concentrating primarily on land.

“A search has continued today (Wednesday) at Etty Bay and Cowley Beach involving Queensland Police Service officers, SES volunteers, drones and helicopters for three men who failed to return from fishing in waters off Far North Queensland,” Queensland Police said in a statement.

Tackle World Tully owner of 46 years and experienced boatie Roly Newton said he was amazed to hear of the rescue of Mr Asi and couldn’t ever recall a previous similar incident.

“Especially not in the middle of winter,” Mr Newton said.

“Being in the water he wouldn’t have been feeling the wind chill factor on him, but it would’ve killed me, there’s no chance I would have lasted that length of time.

“I couldn’t imagine how bad it would’ve been, he would’ve been getting water in his face, then you’ve got the sleep factor, the fatigue factor. If you can, you’d tie yourself to the (Esky or buoy), but I don’t know how he managed for 30 hours hanging on.”

Mr Newton said the gruelling challenge Mr Asi faced would only have been intensified by the “pretty rough” ocean conditions at the weekend.

“Talking to customers who’ve come into the shop, not from personal experience, it was 15-20 (knots) and not real good.

“Generally speaking, 10-15 is about as much as the average person would want to go out in.

“I had a mate who out from Ingham and he’s in one of the best quality 24-foot boat’s you can get and he said it was uncomfortable.

“You have what they call an ocean current, and apparently over the weekend the ocean current has been running quite strongly. So that combined with the waves being blown up by the sea made the waters rougher than it normally would be.”

UPDATE 3.15PM TUESDAY: An air and sea search for three men missing off the coast of Cowley Beach since Saturday will be scaled down according to police.

A sea, air and land search operation including helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and Volunteer Marine Rescue has been unsuccessful.

During today’s search police officers scoured Cowley Beach for signs of the missing men and SES volunteers on quad bikes searched from Liverpool Creek to northern most point of Cowley Beach.

Land and shoreline patrols will continue after a items were found.

Cassowary Coast Patrol Group Acting Inspector Brett Jenkins said “an item of interest” from the boat had been found.

“But we are yet to confirm that with the family,” he said.

Act Insp Jenkins declined to state what the item was.

“We will start to scale back our aerial and sea assets but we will increase our land base assets and focus more on the coastlines,” he said.

“Given the time that this incident has occurred, it’s coming up to 72-hours now, we feel the most efficient use of our resources are to base them along the coastline and conduct a more thorough search of that area.

“It’s a real tragedy, four friends have set out to do some fishing on the Reef for an overnight trip, they stayed out overnight and in the morning decided to return to shore, they encountered some difficulty with the outboard and while they were trying to fix the outboard the boat got swamped and sunk very quickly.

“Our message is it’s never too early to activate the EPERB and make sure everyone on the vessel is aware of where the safety equipment is.”

Police have consulted other agencies about the status of the search and have kept family members briefed about the latest developments.

Members of the community and boaties are being asked to report any debris or information to police.

UPDATE 10AM TUESDAY: The search for three missing fishermen seemingly lost at sea off a Far North coast is getting desperate with still no sign of the trio.

The group had departed from the Clump Point boat ramp at Mission Beach on Friday and had planned to go fishing at some Reefs about 35km off the coast line.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman told the Cairns Post on Tuesday morning search and rescue efforts were ongoing but were unable to provide any fresh details.

“Searching has included officers at Cowley Beach and SES volunteers on quad bikes from Liverpool Creek to northern most point of Cowley Beach,” the QPS spokeswoman said.

“Water Police have gone back out this morning to recommence (and) drones are also being used.”

One of the group, a 36-year-old man, was found clinging to an Esky off Mission Beach after spending 36 hours at sea.

MONDAY 5.30PM: THREE fishermen missing at sea are believed to have tried to swim to an island that was in their sights after their boat sank on Saturday while a fourth man was rescued after being found clinging to an Esky and a buoy.

Police remain hopeful of finding the three missing men who include the owner of the vessel – a 24-year-old Mission Beach man, as well as two men from Vanuatu aged 26 and 31.

A 36-year-old Tongan man who had accompanied them on the trip was found clinging onto an Esky and a buoy about 4.30pm, Sunday, after spending over 30 hours at sea hanging on for life.

He was located about 2km northeast of the Barnard Islands and was taken to Innisfail Hospital with hypothermia, but was in a stable condition on Monday.

The group had departed from the Clump Point boat ramp at Mission Beach on Friday, and Cassowary Coast Patrol Group Acting Inspector Brett Jenkins said police believe they had planned to go fishing at some Reefs about 35km off the coast line.

“We believe about 11am on Saturday that the vessel has taken water after they experienced engine trouble and quickly sank, he said in an update about 4pm Monday.

“We believe it sank somewhere between 35km out and the Barnard Island group (which is east of Cowley Beach, north of Mission Beach.”

Acting Inspector Jenkins said police had spoken to the rescued Tongan man to guide search efforts, although he was only able to supply limited information.

“We believe (the three missing men) have attempted to swim to an island which they could see from the point that they were in the water.

“We’ve searched a number of islands in the Barnard Island group … there was no sign. If they’re still in the water we do hold serious concern for their welfare.

“I did speak to a number of local boaties who did say the conditions became quite unfavourable into the Friday night and it was quite rough.”

He said the “no expenses spared” search effort included land, sea and aerial assets over a “substantial” search area.

“It’s a significant search area, from the takeoff point at Clump Point, out to 35km out, up to the northern point of Cowley Beach and out to the Barnard Island group.

“We will continue with our search on Tuesday and make a decision during the day.”

He said crews were also patrolling the coastline in the Cowley Beach area for any debris that may wash up an provide clues.

Acting Inspector Jenkins said he believed the boaties had all the relevant safety equipment including an EPIRB alarm, but it was never activated.

“It’s never too late to activate the EPIRB, as soon as conditions become unfavourable, we urge boaties to activate their EPIRB.”

UPDATE, 3.30PM: A 36-year-old man who was rescued at sea off the Cassowary Coast yesterday is currently in a stable condition in Innisfail Hospital.

Police say they hold grave fears for three other boaties missing in waters off the Far North coast.

As rescue crews frantically scour waters near Mission Beach for any sign of three boaties, a police spokeswoman gave more insight into the search.

She said four men set off from Clump Point near Mission Beach on Friday and reported engine issues on the weekend.

“Police were notified on Sunday morning that the men were overdue and had not returned Saturday afternoon by family members as expected,” she said.

An air, water and land search was launched immediately including helicopters, planes, the Water Police and Volunteer Marine Rescue.

“Around 4.30pm one of the men was found floating with a small white item off North Bernard Island Group by a helicopter searching and rescued by Water Police who were nearby,” she said.

The man was taken to Innisfail Hospital suffering from hypothermia and exposure.

“The search continues as fears are held for the three men who remain outstanding.”

EARLIER: Emergency services are in a race against time to locate three boaties missing off the coast of a Far Northern beach after their boat sunk more than a day ago.

A marine vessel carrying four people sunk in the Coral Sea between Cowley Beach and Barnard Island on Saturday, with one of the crew located reportedly clinging onto an Esky.

Among the rescuers was commercial aviation company Mission Helicopters, who located the survivor reporting he had “been exposed to the sea elements for over 24 hours after their vessel sank.”

“Our Bell 206L3 LongRanger and locally based crew co-ordinated vessels in the area to the survivor’s location which then safely recovered him from the water,” the aviation company said in a public post.



Final update – Search and rescue operation, Far North Queensland

myPolice on 

Police have concluded search and rescue operations for three fishermen missing off waters in Far North Queensland since Sunday July 10.

Extensive surface, air and land searches have been carried out by State Emergency Service volunteers, Volunteer Marine Rescue, water police, Special Emergency response Team personnel, coastguard vessels and fixed wing and rotary resources covering an estimated more than 3,000 square kilometres in the first day increasing daily, from Liverpool Creek to the northern most point of Cowley Beach, including the Flying Fish point foreshore.

Following the rescue of a fourth member of the group, found floating in waters off North Barnard Island Group on Monday July 11, all subsequent efforts have failed to locate his three companions, debris or items of investigative value following the failure of the stricken vessel’s outboard motor and capsize.  

Acting Inspector Cassowary Coast Patrol Group, Brett Jenkins said the outcome was heartbreaking for the families of the missing men, the rescued man, the community and search party alike.

“Regrettably, despite the best efforts of all members of the search and rescue team, whose dedication was nothing short of commendable, we have been unable to locate the men,” Acting Inspector Jenkins said.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the men’s loved ones, who police remain in close contact with.

“Tragically, while we no longer hold out hope for a positive outcome, I ask the community to be vigilant, boaties in particular, who are asked to report any debris or information to police.”

Police have kept family members briefed about the latest developments.

Inspector Jenkins urged boaties to be prepared and alert to conditions.

“Before you set out, ensure you tell a responsible person about your itinerary to raise the alarm early if you come into trouble,” he said.

“Always take an EPIRB—and ensure all parties know where it’s located and how to activate it, the earlier the better if need be. “And always, always don your life jacket at sea.”

If you have information for police, contact Policelink by providing information using the online suspicious activity form 24hrs per day at