Inquest into Qld trawler deaths resumes

The last minutes of six fishermen who lost their lives when a sea cucumber trawler sank in wild seas are set to be investigated by a Queensland coroner.

Sole survivor Ruben McDornan will give evidence when the inquest into the fatal sinkings of FV Dianne and prawn trawler FV Cassandra resumes in Gladstone on Tuesday.

Mr McDornan clung to the Dianne’s hull in the darkness after the boat capsized off the coast of the town of 1770 on October 16, 2017.


Inside he could hear the screams of two trapped mates – Adam Hoffman, 30, and skipper Ben Leahy, 45 – whose escape from the trawler’s accommodation cabin was blocked by an unsecured refrigerator when the vessel rolled about 7.30pm.

Their bodies were later found by police divers in the sunken boat but fishermen Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, Zach Feeney, 28, and Chris Sammut, 34, disappeared.

They are presumed drowned.

Exhausted and injured, Mr McDornan spent hours treading water after the vessel slipped below the surface.

He was saved by a couple on a passing yacht who heard his yells for help.

Coroner David O’Connell will explore whether the FV Dianne was structurally sound and if there was adequate safety equipment on board.

The nine-day search and rescue operation will also be examined.

Experts will give evidence about whether future deaths could be prevented by making it compulsory for fishermen to wear life jackets while working.

Onboard access to personal location beacons, “grab bags” containing diving masks and portable air tanks in an emergency will also be considered.

Last week, the hearing investigated the sinking of FV Cassandra, which capsized in April 2016 with the loss of its two crew – skipper Matt Roberts, 61, and David Chivers, 36.

Their bodies have also never been found.

© AAP 2019