'Superhero isn't coming home': Moving tribute to Luke Howard
AS THE waves crashed down behind them on the typically pristine and calm shores of Mudjimba Beach, the family and friends of Luke Howard broke down in a show of brutal, raw emotion.
It was the realisation their "superhero" was not coming home.
At that moment their biggest fears were realised - the 35-year-old Mooloolaba man had perished at sea.
He was last seen hanging on to the back of a jetski heading back to shore after one of many fishing trips with his mate. Then, he was gone.
Most of those overcome with grief on the beach on Wednesday morning had held a vigil during the whole 45 hours police, the Coast Guard and Surf Life Saving Queensland had spent searching for Luke.
Amongst them was Caloundra's Ciaran Boland, who made a mercy dash home from China to be with the family of his lifelong friend.
Mr Boland described his mate and colleague as the "nicest bloke you'd ever meet".
"He was everyone's best mate," Mr Boland said holding back tears. "He'd give you the shirt off his back, the last dollar he had in his bank account, that's the type of guy he was.
"He was one of the nicest guys I've ever met, one of my best mates.
"The stories go on for days with that guy. He is life. The life of everyone, the life of the party, the life of everyone.
"It's absolutely heartbreaking and everyone who knows him would say the same."
Mr Boland was on a work trip when he received the gut-wrenching call.
Like many, he travelled thousands of kilometres to be at the beach, arm-in-arm in hope despite the chances diminishing every hour.
Luke was a much-loved man - with his death too raw for many of his beloved family, friends, teammates or colleagues to speak of.
"It's so unfortunate. It's awful," Mr Boland said.
"I'm just glad we have him now and he's not still out there but the last three days have been brutal.
"People have flown up from Sydney, from Melbourne, New Zealand everywhere.
"We've had calls from Ireland, Canada, he knew everyone. And as soon as someone meets him, they like him forever."
Caboolture Snakes Rugby Union club members have rallied after hearing their former hooker was missing.
Emotions have run high at the club. It was too soon for anyone to pay tribute to their 2016 A-grade premiership team member.
"Oh he was tough as nails, one of the toughest on the footy field," Mr Bolton said.
"Plenty would vouch for that too. Those who played with and against him.
"Someone I would speak to nearly every day. I travelled overseas with Lukey, worked with him for 15 years I think.
"We did a ski trip to Canada together, then stayed a while over there."
Tributes have flowed on social media with many offering condolences to his family.
Justin J Andrejic wrote: "Rip mate, you were a good fella and didn't deserve this. Will miss seeing you lurking around Mooloolaba."
Lia Calz: Rip you beautiful soul we will miss you Lukey."
Taren Lennox: "Devastating... Those electric blue eyes will be looking down on his loved ones... until they meet you again."
Sarah Magee: "RIP Luke you will always be remembered for the laughs and love you gave to many."
Rae Jobes: "Luke was a beautiful beautiful person. I'm so sorry for his family."
Anne Raco: "Devastating. He lived for life."