The search for a missing Glen Innes man and his five friends has moved from what the police call a “search and rescue mission” to “the recovery phase”.
Thirty-nine-year-old Eli Tonks who went to Glen Innes High School was about to get married to his Canadian fiancee. He was one of the crew of a trawler which capsized in heavy seas off the coast of Queensland on Monday night.
His family said through the police that they were not ready to give up hope: “We have not given up hope, and will not give up until they are found.”
But police said that “the window of survivability has now passed”. They are urging local people to keep their eyes open on beaches for debris south of Rockhampton.
The police said: “Officers from the Dive Squad have arrived in Gladstone and will be deployed as part of the search today, as weather conditions have improved.
“Expert advice is that the window of survivability has now passed, and the search and rescue mission has now transitioned into the recovery phase.
“This advice has been passed on to the family of the six men.”
Eli Tonks was well liked in Glen Innes. Everybody agreed he was extraordinarily good looking and a generous and friendly person.
His Facebook shows him as a lover of adventure. He’s pictured climbing and clinging to rock faces as well as walking across waterfalls on thin planks or riding an elephant through water. His adventurous spirit took him to places as diverse as the mountains of Peru to the Philippines.
He was engaged to Ana James, a Canadian from Calgary in Alberta.
The Queensland police said on Friday that twelve vessels and a helicopter would be involved in the day’s search for Eli. The one member of the crew who survived has been helping.
The police said: “Areas of debris have begun to wash up on beaches from Gladstone and over the next week, may continue to wash up in the area and as far north as Yeppoon.
“Anyone walking on the beach who locates debris or personal items that may belong to the missing crew is asked to take a photo of it, capture GPS coordinates with their smart phone and, if possible, take the item home and secure it.”