Inquest brings family from UK
THE mother and two sisters of a "lost-at-sea" backpacker have travelled halfway around the world to attend a Mackay inquest, which is trying to find out why he disappeared without trace.
Hugo Barnett-Lonergan, 21, was last seen on the Mackay-based fishing trawler Guiding Star when it was about 60km off the coastline and heading into port.
He was on a working holiday with his mate, Guy Bowen; also on board were experienced Mackay fishermen, twins John and James Hicks.
Barnett-Lonergan had been sitting on the wheelhouse roof, and when he disappeared on September 10, 2010, there was an unopened can of beer left on the roof.
A five-day search by fixed and rotary winged aircraft and surface vessels failed to find any trace of him.
His mother, Brigid Barnett-Lonergan, and his sisters, Helena and Marie-Christine, attended the first day of the inquest conducted by coroner John Hutton in Mackay yesterday.
During the lunch break the coroner, the family, a team of lawyers and witnesses all went to the Pioneer River by minibus to inspect the 17.6 metre Guiding Star, a prawn and scallop trawler, which was moored among other trawlers at the Seafresh wharf.
The sisters, the coroner and other people climbed onto the wheelhouse roof.
Owner and skipper of the Guiding Star, James Hicks, has 30 years of experience as a fisherman, including 20 years as a skipper.
"Neither Hugo or Guy Bowen did anything unsafe," James Hicks testified about the week they'd spent working at sea.
"They seemed to be good friends. They worked and played a bit together."
When Hugo did not come to dinner, James Hicks and the others searched the vessel and then sent out a "mayday" distress call.
The inquest continues today.
- Missing man Hugo Barnett-Lonergan and Guy Bowen left the UK in June, 2010, on a four-stop world trip
- They spent three months in Asia
- They arrived in Brisbane on August 31 and came to Mackay to work on September 4.