Mackay SES officer-in-charge Justin Englert in the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter searches St Bees Island.
Mackay SES officer-in-charge Justin Englert in the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter searches St Bees Island. Contributed

Decision on missing man search

POLICE will meet early this morning to decide whether or not to continue the search for a missing Irish backpacker lost at sea on Friday night.

Emergency workers and volunteers have been scouring the sea and islands north-east of Mackay for five days but have found no trace of the man.

A Queensland Police Service media spokesman said Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) members and State Emergency Services (SES) volunteers from Mirani and Mackay finished a full-scale land search of St Bees and Scawfell islands as night fell yesterday.

The 21-year-old backpacker, who had been working on the Bundaberg-based fishing trawler Guiding Star for just four days before he disappeared, is believed to have fallen overboard from the roof of the vessel between 5.30pm and 6.10pm on Friday in calm seas in the area around Scawfell and St Bees islands.

A search was launched about 7.30pm Friday but the extensive air search component was suspended on Sunday night.

The police spokesman said police and SES had held a short meeting last night but would meet again this morning to decide if they would call off the search.

“Unfortunately, there has been no luck in locating the man or any evidence of the man,” the spokesman said.

Mackay district Superintendent Rowan Bond said any hope of finding the man alive now had diminished.

Supt Bond said police would search until all avenues had been exhausted.

Skipper and owner of Guiding Star James Hicks said he had hired the man and his childhood mate in Mackay just four days before the man mysteriously disappeared on Friday evening.

It is believed the Irishman’s friend, an Englishman, is now staying back on the mainland and that once the investigation has closed he will fly back to England.

Whitsunday Water Police officer in charge Sergeant Graeme Pettigrew said Marine Safety Queensland would be involved with police investigations into the man’s disappearance.

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