TRAWLER TRAGEDY: Police identify bodies retrieved from ocean floor

MONDAY, October 23, 5:00 PM | THE second body retrieved from the ocean floor following the tragic fishing trawler accident off the Queensland coast last week has been identified as 45-year-old Ben Leahy.

Police divers located Mr Leahy’s body, along with the body of Cairns father Adam Hoffman, 30, on Saturday.

Mr Leahy was the skipper of Fishing Vessel Dianne at the time it capsized off the central Queensland coast last Monday night. He, along with five of his mates, became trapped below deck when the boat sank to the seafloor.


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Ben Leahy’s body was found on the bottom of the ocean on Saturday (Source: Supplied)

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Leahy’s family said the loss of their “beloved Ben” was “immeasurable”.

“The confirmation of the death of our beloved Ben has devastated our family and all his friends.

While his death is an immeasurable loss to us, we do feel so blessed to have had him in our lives. Ben’s unique character and personality will leave us with many cherished memories.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the fine young men still missing. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the other young man also found.

We are so thankful for the miracle survival of Ruben. He is a truly remarkable young man.

We want to thank the professionals and volunteers for their tireless efforts during the initial search for the Dianne and the ongoing search for the missing crew. Their courage and dedication in these challenging circumstances has been immensely appreciated.

We want to specifically acknowledge the outstanding support we have received from the police and the people of the Gladstone area.

The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community at large during this terrible tragedy has been of much comfort to us and we are so grateful. Thank you.

Our beloved Ben is gone from our lives but forever in our hearts.” – Family Statement

The search continues for the bodies of the remaining crew members Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, Chris Sammut, 34, and Zach Feeney, 28, who also died in the incident.

Ruben McDornan was the sole survivor of the tragedy. He was on deck when the boat flipped and spent hours clinging to the hull of the vessel before he was rescued by a couple on a passing boat.

MONDAY, October 23, 1:15 PM | POLICE have confirmed one of the two bodies retrieved from a sunken fishing vessel off the coast of Queensland over the weekend belongs to 30-year-old Adam Hoffman.

The Clifton Beach man’s body was one of two found by police divers in the wreckage on the ocean floor on Saturday.

He was of six men who became trapped below deck when the fishing trawler sank to the bottom of the ocean after capsizing in rough seas last Monday night. The search continues for four of his mates who remain unaccounted for.

The body of Clifton Beach father Adam Hoffman, 30, was one of the first two retrieved from the trawler on Saturday (Supplied)

Mr Hoffman’s family released a heartbreaking statement this morning, describing their father, son, and brother as “one in a million with a heart of gold”.

“Our hearts are broken to lose our beloved Adam. He was one in a million with a heart of gold. He loved what he did and loved his crew. He will always be remembered for his love of the ocean and adventurous spirit. He will forever be our beautiful pirate who went out doing what he loved.

For those who knew him he loved to laugh and was funny as hell. He had amazing energy, was fearless, courageous and was a genuine legend. To his family, he was our cherished brother who was kind, thoughtful, loving and would always tell it like it is. I do what I want.

He loved his family and friends. He leaves behind his beautiful 5-year-old daughter Evie who he loved more than anything in this world, his parents Ross and Suzanne along with his five sisters Melody, Heidi, Sally, Sarah, and Alicia.

The family are forever grateful to all those involved in the search and rescue/recovery and ask for privacy during this hard time.” – Family Statement

Mr Hoffman leaves behind his beautiful 5-year-old daughter Evie, parents Ross and Suzanne and five sisters Melody, Heidi, Sally, Sarah and Alicia.

His family has set up a GoFundMe page, with all money raised to be held in trust and put towards Evie’s future.

UPDATE MONDAY, October 23, 6.45am: POLICE will continue the search today for four fishermen, who remain missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Queensland last Monday.

Following days of searching, the vessel was finally located by sonar equipment, 30 metres below the water’s surface, about two nautical miles off Round Hill Headland on Friday afternoon.

Police confirmed the bodies of two men were retrieved from the trawler on Saturday afternoon, with four remaining outstanding.

Divers have since finished clearing the wreckage of the commercial fishing vessel, and despite a “painstaking and thorough search,” which involved the clearing of a large amount of debris, no further bodies were located inside, police revealed on Sunday.

“Work continues to formally identify the two men located inside the boat,” officers said.

Two police vessels will conduct a further sonar search in the area today, along with a fixed-wing aircraft which will conduct sweeps of the coast.

There will also be further land-based foot and vehicle patrols along the beach.

“Police are working hard to ensure the families of Adam Bidner, Zachary Feeney, Adam Hoffman, Ben Leahy, Chris Sammut and Eli Tonks can get some measure of closure,” Queensland Police said.

EARLIER @ 5:00PM SATURDAY | POLICE divers have recovered two bodies from a sunken fishing boat which capsized off the coast of Queensland on Monday, trapping six crewmen in the cabin.

“Dianne” capsized in waters off the small town of 1770 on Monday night. Following days of searching, the vessel was located by sonar equipment a little over two nautical miles off Round Hill Headland on Friday afternoon.

Police have confirmed the bodies of two men were retrieved from the trawler on Saturday afternoon, which lay upturned on the ocean floor, around 30 metres below the water’s surface.

“Poor visibility and debris have hampered recovery efforts and the operation has been a slow process and is expected to take some time,” police said in a statement.

“Specialist police divers are only able to remain underwater for 13 minutes and most of those 13 minutes have been spent removing debris from the wreckage.”

Water police will continue to guard the scene tonight and an exclusion zone of five nautical miles remains in place.

The recovery operation will recommence at first light tomorrow, depending on the weather.

Gold Coast man Chris Sammut, 34, is one of six mates feared killed in the tragedy.

Mr Sammut became trapped in the submerged cabin with Ben Leahy, 45, Adam Hoffman, 30, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, and Zach Feeney, 28.

The bodies retrieved from the seabed on Saturday afternoon are yet to be formally identified.

Fellow crewman, Ruben McDornan, managed to survive after spending hours clinging to the vessel’s hull before he was rescued by a couple on a passing boat.

UPDATE @ October 21, 6.30am: A recovery operation is underway off the central Queensland coast, after a four-day search effort located a capsized fishing trawler.

Police issued a release on Friday afternoon confirming the commercial vessel “Dianne” had been found.

“The vessel was detected by sonar approximately 2-3 nautical miles off Round Hill Headland,” Police said in a statement.

The boat overturned off Bustard Bay on Monday night, seemingly trapping six crewmen in the cabin.

The recovery operation is expected to find the bodies of Ben Leahy, 45, Adam Hoffman, 30, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, Zach Feeney, 28, and Gold Coast man Chris Sammut, 34.

Fellow crewman, Ruben McDornan, managed to survive by grabbing onto the vessel’s hull as she went down.

He spent hours clinging to it before he was rescued by a couple on a passing boat who heard his screams for help.

EARLIER @ October 19, 7.20am: THE desperate search for six men, missing at sea after their trawler capsized off the central Queensland coast, is entering its third day.

Ben Leahy, 45, Adam Hoffman, 30, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, Zach Feeney, 28, and Gold Coast man Chris Sammut, 34, were on a commercial fishing boat when it overturned in Bustard Bay near Middle Island on Monday night.

The sole known survivor, Ruben McDornan, managed to cling on to the vessel’s hull for hours before he was rescued when a couple on a passing boat heard his screams for help.

Police say today’s coordinated search will involve up to twelve water vessels, two helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, and numerous vehicles patrolling the shoreline in the search area.

They say weather conditions are still hindering search efforts, however, conditions are expected to improve around midday.

Police are appealing to any vessels in the search area to contact police if they have any information that may assist with the search.

Yesterday, the families of the missing men expressed their appreciation for the work that is currently being done in relation to the search, however, asked for “privacy and compassion during this extremely difficult time.”

Additional reporting by JAYDAN DUCK and SHANEE DOBESON.

Since graduating from University in 2003, Rachel has worked in radio in a variety of roles including announcer, journalist and copywriter. The crazy world of radio has taken her from her hometown of Toowoomba to Wollongong, Sydney, Brisbane and finally the Gold Coast when in 2009 she started writing and presenting news with Hot Tomato and myGC.com.au. “In 2014 I took a step back from full-time duties to become a stay at home mum and now cover the weekend news and whatever else may be needed from time to time. I keep my ‘presenting voice’ active during the week when reading children’s books and attempting to do various accents (to little success).”

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