Torrance SAMBO


Search for spearfisher suspended after police find 26yo's clothes, flippers, on ocean floor

ABC Far North
By Jemima Burt
Posted updated 

Police say they have found items belonging to a Cairns spearfisherman near where he went missing on Saturday afternoon.

Edmonton resident Torrance Sambo, 26, had been fishing at Sudbury Reef, south-east of Fitzroy Island, with a 56-year-old friend who raised the alarm.

An official search effort launched at the weekend involved boats, four helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and was aided by a large community-led volunteer effort.

The official search was called off on Monday afternoon after authorities found clothing and fishing equipment belonging to Mr Sambo.

A large area around Sudbury Reef was searched in an operation that Senior Constable Matt Cornish said was aided by clear weather.

"Given the conditions of the ocean it was fantastic weather and great visibility," he said.

"Police were able to conduct a systematic search of an extensive area, which was in excess of 135 square kilometres.

"The items that were located on the ocean floor were assessed and they were assessed as [belonging to] the missing man.

"The items that were located by police divers on Sunday afternoon were in close vicinity of the boat, which was still anchored there."

Senior Constable Cornish said the decision to suspend the search was made in conjunction with Mr Sambo's family.

"From that point in time we could condense our search to the nearby area and there they were able to assess the situation and it was deemed that it was no longer necessary," he said.

The boat was towed to Cairns and will feature in the investigation.

Senior Constable Cornish said it was best practice for one person to remain on the vessel as a lookout at all times.

Detectives will prepare a report for the coroner.



Search called off for missing spear fisherman Torrance Sambo

A family member of the missing spear fisherman has broken her silence to clarify an important detail as police called off the search, leaving investigators to query whether the 26-year-old could have been taken by a shark.

Arun Singh MannAndreas Nicola and Peter Carruthers

LATEST: THE family of a missing spear fisherman have vowed to keep searching for the 26-year-old despite police calling their ­efforts off.

The partner of missing 26-year-old spear fisherman Torrance Sambo says she was “puzzled” by the police statement which reported family were consulted before calling the search off.

Jasmine Brown who shares two young children with Mr Sambo said the search for her partner would “never be over” and that the police statement issued midday Tuesday was “misleading”.

“We don’t know which family members they consulted,” Ms Brown, who lives with Mr Sambo’s mother said.

Queensland Police have been contacted for confirmation on which of Mr Sambo’s family members were consulted.

“We’re still hoping for the best, the plan is to just search and search,” Ms Brown said.

“(All the family members) are still hopeful, some sadness of course but they will never give up.

“Our search isn’t over and will never be over.”

Ms Brown said she thanked the Far Northern community for its support and help and asked “everyone just keep praying for ‘Torry’.”

TUESDAY: The search for a missing spear fisherman off the coast of Cairns has been called off as investigators query whether the 26-year-old could have been taken by a shark.

At 2pm on Monday the search for missing Edmonton man, Torrance Sambo was called off in good weather near Sudbury Reef.

Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Matt Cornish said search vessels conducted an extensive search covering more than 135 sq/km.

“Obviously as time goes on the chance of survivability decreases dramatically,” he said.

“Police make the decision to suspend the search and rescue mission for this man.

“The decision was made by the State Search and Rescue Co-ordinator along with police officers, medical experts and the family, as well.”

Snr Sgt Cornish said detectives conducting an investigation into the disappearance would be looking at the possibility Mr Sambo could have been taken by a shark.

“They have not ruled that out at this stage and they will be looking at any piece of evidence available to find out what happened to this man, to be able to give family and friends closure,” he said.

Snr Sgt Cornish said items including flippers found on the ocean floor have been identified as possessions belonging to Mr Sambo.

MONDAY: Police say a number of items have been discovered during the search for a spear fisherman who vanished during a dive off the Cairns coast.

The 26-year-old man, Torrance Sambo, became separated from his 56-year-old fishing companion and failed to return to the boat at 4.15pm Saturday.

Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Matt Cornish said the items were currently being assessed to confirm whether they are linked to the investigation.

“The items were located on the ocean floor near where the boat was,” he said.

“Police divers did locate them.

He said the search would continue until sundown Monday and was expected to resume on Tuesday.

“We will continue with this search and rescue to provide closure or answers for the family moving forward,” he said.

A number of private boats crewed by members of the public have also joined the search after distressed family and friends put call-outs on social media.

EARLIER: A search effort has resumed for a missing spear fisherman who disappeared following a dive near Sudbury Reef off the Cairns coast.

The 26-year-old man became separated from his 56-year-old fishing companion and failed to return to the boat at 4.15pm Saturday.

Police have now confirmed how their desperate hunt for the vanished diver will play out today.

“The aerial and surface search, including four helicopters and numerous vessels will continue from first light this morning,” a Queensland Police spokesman said.

Cairns Water Police searched with the assistance of the rescue helicopter and Coast Guard on the weekend but the man was not located.

The search was expected to stop at last light on Sunday and continue Monday morning.

Divers will continue searching the sea bed with helicopters and vessels combing the area.

Far North District duty officer Senior Sergeant Gregory Miles said several vessels conducted a search over a 47 square nautical mile area on Sunday.

“Police divers arrived from Brisbane and have done a dive this afternoon and will continue to search in the morning,” he said.

“A decision will be made (Monday) about how long the search will continue.”

The Water Police Vessel, the Perry Irwin remained in the area overnight and a Queensland Police spokeswoman confirmed the Rescue 510 helicopter along with three other helicopters, water police and the Cairns Volunteer Coast Guard were involved in the search efforts.

On Sunday, a plea by the missing man’s sister on social media for boaties to keep an eye out for him attracted hundreds of comments of support and hope.

Among countless comments of the post’s followers assuring the family they had shared the plea were messages of hope.

“I’ve been out at that reef when our boat snapped the anchor rope while we were spearfishing. We were in the water for just over 16 hours before search and rescue found us, it’s more than doable to survive out there overnight. Have faith, I hope he is found and OK, I only shared to try ease your mind a little,” Toby Waite said.

“Sending prayers out to you and the families and praying we get positive news today that he is found safe and well,” Phil West said.


Boaties urged to join search for missing spearfisherman Torrance Sambo

Desperate family of missing spearfisherman Torrance Sambo are pleading with boat, jet ski and drone owners to take part in a co-ordinated land and sea search early Saturday.

Peter Carruthers and Arun Singh Mann


FAMILY of missing spearfisherman Torrance Sambo are pleading boat, jet ski and drone owners to take part in a co-ordinated land and sea search extending from Innisfail to Wujal Wujal.

The 26-year-old was spearfishing at Sudbury Reef last Saturday when he failed to return to the boat.

Despite the official search scouring 135sq km of ocean, the mission failed to find the Edmonton man and was called off by Cairns police on Monday.

Not deterred, Mr Sambo’s family – believing the much-loved father of three could still be alive – has vowed to search on.

At 4am Saturday, boaties will take on free fuel and supplies before rendezvousing at five different locations and heading out on a desperate mission to bring Mr Sambo home.

Search crews will meet at Trinity Inlet, Port Douglas, Yarrabah, Wujal Wujal and Innisfail.

Mr Sambo’s sister Genavie Tabaui made a desperate plea on Friday afternoon for help with the search.

“The police may have given up on Torri, but we have not,” she said

“We are sending out a heartfelt plea to the public to help us find Torri. Any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.”

Volunteer Marine Rescue Officer in charge of Gulf waters Peter Graham said ocean currents often moved floating debris hundreds of kilometres.

“There’s particular spots, a stretch of beach north of Cape Flattery, it’s unbelievable what washes up from tourist areas. (Items) like dinghies, fuel tanks and diving gear,” he said.

“When the tides and currents work together it’s amazing what turns up.”

He commended the family for undertaking their own search but feared hopes of finding the spearfisherman alive were remote.

“What the family is doing now is exceptional,” he said.

“As important as a family member is there are limited resources and you can’t blow them all on the one search, you have to have resources for the next one.”

He said sometimes best preparations and doing the right thing were not enough to ensure safety on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The thousands of people out there every week, the stats of something going wrong are almost incalculable,” he said.

“From Bundaberg north to PNG the chance of (death) is minimal, there would be one fatality in a million.

”Sometimes you do nothing wrong but it’s just circumstances on the day.”