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More debris found in search for missing boatie Tony Higgins and his boat Margrel

By Eugene Boisvert, Wednesday September 23, 2020 - 13:37 EST
ABC licensed image
Items police believe are from Tony Higgins's missing boat the Margrel, which they took to the Goolwa police station. - ABC licensed

Debris which police have described as "consistent with items from the missing boat" has been discovered in the search for Tony Higgins and the Margrel.

Police say a local commercial fisherman discovered the items washed ashore several kilometres south-east of the Murray Mouth, near Goolwa, about 6:30am.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the fisherman sent police photos of the debris.

It was then collected and taken to the Goolwa police station, with police later sharing a photo of the items — including a life buoy and jerry cans — on Twitter.

"At this point in time we're satisfied the debris is consistent with items from the boat," Mr Stevens said.

"So that will give us a defined area to start the search this morning and we'll be pushing those resources to those locations."

Police said debris seen by a media helicopter was not the same as the items found by the fisherman.

Mr Higgins has been missing since early yesterday, when he called police .

The 57-year-old Goolwa man has not been heard from since.

His boat was last seen at the Granite Island wharf on Monday afternoon.

Patrols and the police helicopter are on their their way to the area to conduct a coastal search, and a plane will focus on searching open water in the same area.

Separate debris was located in the water near the island about 4:30pm yesterday by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) plane.

Police are investigating whether it is linked to Mr Higgins.

"We are asking anyone who may have had contact from the man on board or who has seen the vessel after 3:00pm on Monday to contact police on 131 444," SA Police Senior Constable Dave Muir said.

Second search for boatie and Margrel

It is the second major police search for Mr Higgins, after .

They .

Mr Robinson yesterday told the ABC he was worried for his friend's safety, and hopeful he would be found floating in the ocean in a life jacket.

Alexandrina Mayor Keith Parkes this morning said the outlook "doesn't look too good" for Mr Higgins and the Margrel.

"In those conditions on this coast, if the boat hasn't been sighted or found by now, it would indicate something has happened, and if something has happened, the boat has sunk or something like that," Mr Parkes said.

"The likelihood of surviving would be a miracle really."

'Atrocious' conditions yesterday

Sea Rescue volunteers conducted a search for several hours yesterday morning but were forced to return to shore as weather conditions worsened.

They and the SA Police Water Operations Unit will search Encounter Bay again this morning.

Authorities conducted an aerial search of the area until 11:00pm using infrared radar equipment.

Mr Parkes said yesterday's weather was "atrocious", with wind gusts of about 50 kilometres per hour bringing rain down "pretty well horizontal".

The former commodore of the Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club said it was possible the boat had come loose from its mooring accidentally during the night and been carried out with the current.

He said he felt for the searchers, particularly the many volunteers.

"Putting their lives at risk in these conditions — it's terrible," he said.

Mr Parkes said wooden boats often leaked some water, which could be exacerbated in heavy weather.


© ABC 2020

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