SYDNEY, Australia – Rescuers in helicopters and boats scanned the seas today for the missing crew of a catamaran found deserted off the Great Barrier Reef – with the sails up, engine running and food on the table.
The three-member crew was last seen Sunday leaving the northeastern town of Airlie Beach. On Wednesday, a coastal patrol plane spotted their 40-foot catamaran drifting aimlessly, its headsail battered and torn, about 95 miles offshore. Rescue workers who reached the boat early Friday confirmed no one was aboard.
The Australian newspaper today quoted police as saying the crew probably fell overboard.
Police launched a massive sea and air rescue Friday spanning a stretch of coast around 700 nautical miles long, but found no trace of the missing men.
The search resumed at first light today, with two helicopters, two volunteer rescue boats, and water police scouring a narrower stretch of ocean from the town of Bowen south to Airlie Beach, where officials believe the men may have fallen overboard.
Marine authorities towed the Kaz II back to shore overnight, and forensic inspectors began examining the vessel’s global positioning system and laptops for clues about the three missing crew members.
“Sometime that day (Sunday) the vessel may have been tracking in a direction towards an area where some high wind squalls and rough seas were building,” police superintendent Roy Wall said. “This indicates to us that the men may have been missing from the boat (since) sometime Sunday.”
Besides the shredded headsail, there was no indication of any other damage and no distress call had been made.
“They got onboard and said the engine was running, the computers were running, there was a laptop set up on the table which was running, the radio was working … and there was food and utensils set on the table ready to eat, but no sign of the crew,” said Jon Hall, a spokesman for Queensland state’s Emergency Management office.
“It was a bit strange,” he said.