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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Search resumes for missing trawler crew

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Fisherman Ruben McDornan was the sole survivor. (facebook)
Fisherman Ruben McDornan was the sole survivor. (facebook)

One of the men who helped rescue fisherman Ruben McDornan from turbulent seas off the central Queensland coast says his survival is nothing short of remarkable.

New details have emerged of Mr McDornan’s unlikely salvation, as authorities continue searching for the bodies of four of his crew mates.

The bodies of two others were found on Saturday when divers searched their fishing vessel, which capsized and sank in wild weather last Monday night.

Search crews will on Monday continue scouring the coastline near the town of 1770, hoping to return the remains of the missing four to their grieving families.

Mal Priday was one of four people aboard the catamaran that plucked Mr McDornan from heavy seas on Tuesday morning.

He said the fisherman was resting below deck when the Dianne overturned.

He managed to escape by squeezing through a gap in a door but his crew mates were trapped.

“He said he doesn’t know how he got out through a gap that small, but he got out,” Mal Priday has told The Courier-Mail.

“It was a very dark night with no moon. It was rainy and cloudy. He could hear his mates inside trying to get out.”

Mr McDornan managed to clamber onto the capsized vessel’s hull, but was repeatedly knocked off before it sank, Mr Priday said.

The fisherman was injured and had nothing to help keep him afloat when the catamaran chanced upon him, floating 5.6km from shore on Tuesday morning.

“He only had the pair of shorts he was wearing. Not even a piece of debris to hang on to. It’s a remarkable tale of survival. The odds are incalculable. We were the only boat out there,” Mr Priday said.

Skipper Ben Leahy, 45, and crew members Adam Hoffman, 30, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, Chris Sammut, 34, and Zach Feeney, 28, died in the incident.

Members of the local community have started a flower memorial for the men at 1770’s Round Hill Headland, overlooking the water.

Monday’s search will involve crews searching the shore in vehicles and on foot, with the support of a spotter plane.

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