Police deliver ‘terrible’ news to families

UPDATE: QUEENSLAND Police will start preparing a report for the coroner after a four-day search failed to find any trace of five people missing in the Torres Strait.

Chief Superintendent and Far North district cfficer Brian Huxley said officers spoke to the family yesterday and recommended calling off the search.

"We delivered the terrible news to the families that we have been unable to find their loved ones," he said.

"It has been an extensive search covering thousands of square kilometres. We have located the boat, we've also located life jackets and an EPIRB among other material on that boat but regrettably we've not been able to locate the people who were in it.

Police have spoken to the families of five missing people after a search and rescue operation in the Torres Strait after a vessel was reported overdue on July 31. The 7-metre vessel departed Badu Island at around 3pm on July 31 with plans to travel to Dauan Island with a 22-year-old man, 47-year-old man, 21-year-old woman, 21-year-old woman and a 9-year-old boy.
Police have spoken to the families of five missing people after a search and rescue operation in the Torres Strait after a vessel was reported overdue on July 31. The 7-metre vessel departed Badu Island at around 3pm on July 31 with plans to travel to Dauan Island with a 22-year-old man, 47-year-old man, 21-year-old woman, 21-year-old woman and a 9-year-old boy.

"It's incredibly sad news not just for Dauan Island and for Saibai, (but) the other islands in the Torres Strait and beyond.

"Over the coming days we'll be preparing a report for the coroner and we'll be supporting the families up here in the Torres Strait as they deal with this terrible situation. We just don't know what happened."

Chief Superintendent Huxley said police "were absolutely convinced we were searching the right location" but experts have concluded there was no chance of finding the missing group alive.

He also confirmed a child's body found on the Papua New Guinea coast was not related to the search.

The 7-metre vessel departed Badu Island on Wednesday with plans to travel to Dauan Island with a 22-year-old man, 47-year-old man, 21-year-old woman, 21-year-old woman and a 9-year-old boy.

Yesterday the search concentrated on coastline with assistance from Queensland police vessels Handran and Olive as well as aircraft.

"Even highly skilled mariners with safety equipment can still get themselves into trouble and we would like to remind people whenever they're setting forth to carefully consider their travel plans because accidents can still happen," Chief Superintendent Huxley said.

"You've got to remember this is a very remote part of the state.

t's such an incredible loss of life across a range of families. There is such an enormous amount of grief and this will be felt for some time. Everybody knows them. When somebody is just missing it leaves an absolute hole in your heart. It's the unknown - what happened to them, where are they now, is there some hope they might come home? It's the most terrible thing for families to deal with. Everyone is reeling from the loss of so many young people."

"That's why we put such a massive effort into the search."

He praised local police and uthorities as well as indigenous rangers and the community for their help in the search.

Counselling and assistance will be provided to the community.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has called for a new system to ensure the safety of those travelling by boat in the Torres Strait.

"I don't know how to do it but I think we need to have another mechanism up there," he said.

"I think we need to have a look at this given the people up there are very mobile, seafaring people, and there are a lot of people from the western Papuan province sailing around there too.

"We have been doing a lot of work with rangers putting EPIRBs and safety gear in the boats.

"It's devastating for that whole area, they all know each other."

Cook MP Cynthia Lui expressed her sympathy for everyone involved.

"It's a very difficult time. My thoughts and my prayers are with all the people involved," she said.

"I also want to thank those involved in the search. I understand the weather is quite severe and there are people out there working really hard to come up with something. I'm hoping for the best."

 

EARLIER SUNDAY: LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has called for a new system to ensure the safety of those travelling by boat in the Torres Strait as the search for five people missing in the area nears the end of day three.

He said big sharks were spotted in the area where an empty dinghy, which the missing people were believed to be travelling in, was found.

"The boat was found between Boigu and Dauan islands and the body which was picked up by PNG authorities had a lifejacket on and was found past Saibai Island to the east," Mr Entsch said.

"It's a very significant distance and big sharks were spotted around the area as well. It is also an area with a lot of crocodiles.

"The sad part of this, they did have life jackets, they did have an EPIRB, but if you go back Malu Sara incident, out of five people who went missing only one body was found.

"There are very strong tides through those islands and the person who was found, a child, had drifted a long way.

"It is fraught up there."

Mr Entsch was referring to a 2005 incident where a Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs vessel, the Malu Sara, sunk claiming the lives of two male DIMIA crew, two adult females and a four-year-old girl.

A fresh look at safety procedures was needed, Mr Entsch said.

"I don't know how to do it but I think we need to have another mechanism up there. I understand a call (from the boat) was made at 1am in the morning and went unanswered.

"I think we need to have a look at this given the people up there are very mobile, seafaring people, and there are a lot of people from the western Papuan province sailing around there too.

"We have been doing a lot of work with rangers putting EPIRBs and safety gear in the boats."

Mr Entsch described the incident as a "tragedy".

"It's devastating for that whole area, they all know each other," he said.

Cook MP Cynthia Lui expressed her sympathy for everyone involved as well.

"It's a very difficult time. My thoughts and my prayers are with all the people involved. I am praying for the best outcome and at this point in time I understand the search is continuing," she said.

"I like everyone else is in the same position of waiting and hoping.

"I also want to thank those involved in the search. I understand the weather is quite severe and there are people out there working really hard to come up with something. I'm hoping for the best."



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