The fishing trawler, Dianne.
The fishing trawler, Dianne. Queensland Police Service

VMR give it their all in last-ditch search for trawler crew

THE official police search for the missing crew from the sunken fishing trawler Dianne was called off last week.

But that didn't stop Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone from continuing the search at the weekend.

They went out on Saturday in two vessels and covered a lot of ground, some of which hadn't previously been covered - but they were unable to find anything significant.

Hamish McLeod, chief controller, said it was "worth a try".

"We can only say we've done what we can do, finally we are going to have to accept it," he said.

Captain Mike Lutze has been a mariner for 55 years, harbour master for 23 years and volunteer with VMR since retiring.

He said VMR was motivated by the desire to, "if possible, give some closure to the families of the four missing people".


Mike Lutze the Harbour Master attended the Bechtel breakfast with Gladstone Community leaders at Rock Salt. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
CLOSURE: Former Gladstone Harbour Master Mike Lutze says the VMR is motivated by a desire to help the families of the missing fishermen. Brenda Strong GLA041013BREK

"One must be realistic, their chances of survival are past now, but if by pure chance we can find something and give a bit of closure to the families, that's really about it," he said.

The fuel that made the weekend search possible was donated by Puma.

Mal McCracken, team operator at Puma, said they donated 600 litres of fuel because of their respect for what VMR does.

"They are the forgotten heroes, they're just sort of there when everyone wants them. No one ever seems to say much about them," he said.

"My son works out at sea, he might need their help one day."


The men missing at sea.
MISSING: The six men on board the Dianne when it sunk last month. The bodies of Adam Hoffman and skipper Ben Leahy were recovered from the wreckage. Newscorp

Captain Lutze said they rely heavily on the support from Puma and other sponsors to perform their role.

"We greatly appreciate the support of people like Puma, they go to the heart of it," he said.

"Without that we really would be struggling, we'd be outside Bunnings every Saturday, selling lamingtons."

VMR undertook their weekend search based on advice on search patterns from the water police.

The search covered an area between Bustard Head and Cape Capricorn and beyond to an area of 3000 square miles.

The search area was influenced by locations where debris had been found drifting.

"There's fairly distinct debris patterns and we've recovered a number of items (over the course of the search) identified as coming from the Dianne," Mr McLeod said.

He said they were determined to continue the search over the weekend "to let the guys up in Cairns know we're still going, we are not going to give it away just yet".


The fishing trawler sank at Bustard Bay on the night of Monday, October 16.

Ruben McDornan was the only crew member rescued.

Two bodies were recovered from the debris-filled boat on Saturday, October 21.

The remaining four crew members' bodies have not been located despite intensive searching.

Captain Lutze said "if new evidence comes to light, if the police ask us to go out, we'll certainly do it".