LIFTED: The 10metre fishing charter vessel Rapture was lifted out of the water at Hamilton Island last week. 
Photo Sharon Smallwood
LIFTED: The 10metre fishing charter vessel Rapture was lifted out of the water at Hamilton Island last week. Photo Sharon Smallwood

Rescuers praised

INVESTIGATIONS are continuing into the capsize of a fishing charter vessel from Hamilton Island last week, during which Doris Wibowo, a 31-year-old Sydneysider, tragically lost her life.

Ms Wibowo was one of 12 people on board the 10 metre boat Rapture, which was hit by a violent storm front off the south coast of Whitsunday Island about 4.30pm on Tuesday, December 27.

Tales of heroic rescue efforts are now emerging from the witness accounts of those first on the scene, including passengers and crew from the fishing charter vessel Renegade and private boat Sushi Hunter.

Bob Craigie, a Hamilton Island resident and passenger aboard Sushi Hunter said full marks must go to Renegade's skipper Jayson Gray and his crew, "for initially locating the stricken vessel in the heavy rain, then for taking all the survivors on board, for staying with the upturned boat and for towing it back to port completely unassisted in the dark, under extremely difficult conditions".

"Jayson was the hero of this tragic accident and should be heralded as such - the rest of us were bit players," he said.

Mr Craigie said while the rescue was underway a distressed man was seen hammering on the hull in a vain attempt to contact his female partner who had not surfaced after the capsize.

"In the meantime the skipper and deckhand of Rapture and others from Renegade were free diving underneath in an attempt to locate the missing woman who (they believed) may have been trapped in an air pocket," he said.

Mr Craigie said that throughout the rescue, torrential rain, lightning and thunder made communications difficult although mobile phone and VHF radio calls to home base and the relevant authorities did get through.

At first light a major air and sea search operation ensued involving two helicopters, a fixed wing aircraft and numerous boats, but about 24 hours after the capsize, Ms Wibowo's body was located by police divers on board the boat.

Sushi Hunter's skipper Wayne Juppenlatz said this was devastaing news, particularly for those who had tried repeatedly to search the vessel on the night it actually capsized.

"So many guys just dived and dived and dived (and) then to find out she was there the whole time..." Mr Juppenlatz said.

Search co-ordinator Senior Constable John Latham said all official personnel involved, including CIB (police), water police and the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR), had responded under difficult circumstances, in consultation with everyone involved and to the best of their abilities.

"We do the best with what we've got at the time and that's our job as search co-ordinators," he said.

"Our highest priority with the divers was to search the area where it happened and that's the reason we took the decision to search that area first."

Constable Latham said contrary to numerous news reports, Ms Wibowo's body was not located in the vessel's head (toilet).

"The full facts will be disclosed - it is a matter for the coroner (now)."

Constable Latham also said police would like to thank all those involved in the rescue efforts.

"The incident could have been much worse. Twelve people went into the water in horrendous conditions and all their lives were at great risk," he said.

"I've heard reports of some heroic efforts and they may be recognised in due course once the investigation is complete."


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