Gladstone's top cop's flashback to tragic emergency call
A TORRENTIAL downpour was wreaking havoc on the region's roads when news came of what would become one of the most shocking maritime incidents in recent years.
Ahead of the 12 month anniversary on Tuesday of the sinking of Dianne, Gladstone Police Inspector Darren Somerville said he clearly recalls the moment the call came through.
"The first information was fairly sketchy," he said.
"We knew a fishing vessel had overturned and there were six people missing and one survivor."
The Dianne, a beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) dive boat, overturned in rough weather in Bustard Bay off Middle Island at approximately 7.30pm on October 16.
The sole survivor was crewman Ruben McDornan who managed to escape the cabin in the dark, wild weather then clung onto the hull until the vessel sank around midnight.
Mr McDornan spent another six hours swimming through rough seas until he was miraculously found by passing yachties Mal and Linda Priday who raised the alarm.
Insp Somerville said police had been busy dealing with road closures and flooding caused by torrential rain around the region.
"We had a number of other jobs happening at the same time but we immediately realised this was going to be a big event," he said.
"We threw everything into the search."
The communities of Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water joined the search in spite of extremely bad weather.
"The Volunteer Marine Rescue from Round Hill were out for days," Insp Somerville said.
"A lot of private boats went out under their own steam, they offered their help as we co-ordinated the search.
"It was very hard, the police boat copped a lot of damage as there were 30 to 40 knot winds and huge seas at the time."
The boat was located at a depth of 30 metres 4 nautical miles north of Seventeen Seventy and the bodies of two crew members, skipper Ben Leahy and crewman Adam Hoffman were recovered from inside the vessel.
The remaining men, Eli Tonks, Adam Bidner, Zac Feeney and Chris Sammut were not found.
"We searched for as long we could, we did everything we could humanely do," Insp Somerville said.
He said the loss of the Dianne was the biggest maritime incident in years.
"Such a loss of life in one incident is not common," he said.
"It affected a lot of police, at the time and afterwards."
In February the Dianne was re-floated and towed to Bundaberg where an investigation into the cause of the sinking was conducted by the Criminal Investigation Branch.
Insp Somerville said the information will be sent to the coroner, along with results from a Maritime Safety Queensland investigation.
But he said this could take some time.
After the investigation the families of the crew gathered to hold a private memorial service.
Afterwards, the Dianne was handed back to the insurers and has since been cut up and destroyed.
Inspector Somerville will be attending a memorial on Tuesday evening on Round Hill Headland, which the families of the six men are expected to attend.