Searchers and friends of boatie Tony Higgins are still holding out hope for another miracle rescue despite debris all but confirming his boat has been lost.
Searchers and friends of boatie Tony Higgins are still holding out hope for another miracle rescue despite debris all but confirming his boat has been lost.

Missing boatie’s keys and ID found washed ashore

A small bag containing glasses, keys and an ID card belonging to Tony Higgins, have been found washed up on the beach near the Murray Mouth.

The items were found on the second day of the search for the missing boatie, who made a distress call early on Tuesday morning to say his boat was taking on water.

Police still hope to find him alive, but agreed their chances were "diminishing" as time goes on.

Rescue crews also found several items of debris from Mr Higgins' 33ft Margrel on Wednesday, including part of the floor, several jerry cans and other equipment.

The man's friend and former deckhand, Derek Robinson, believes he made an early-morning charge for the Murray Mouth on Tuesday before getting into trouble.

"It saddens me, his boat has gone down … I can only hope he's got a life jacket on and he's made it to land," he said.

Mr Robinson and Mr Higgins both vanished on board the Margrel earlier this month after departing from Coffin Bay in an attempt to make it to Goolwa.

It sparked the largest search in South Australian maritime history, as the men remained missing for more than four days.

When they were miraculously found alive near Salt Creek, Mr Higgins claimed he was never lost and had no idea people were looking for him.

But, authorities held grave fears for him on Wednesday afternoon, as Inspector Gus Sickerdick revealed the news that rescue officers found the man's glasses, keys and a wallet containing an ID card.

Police have confirmed the debris is from Tony Higgins’ boat The Margrel. Inspector Gus Sickerdick said the chances of finding him alive again were diminishing. Picture: Tait Schmaal.
Police have confirmed the debris is from Tony Higgins’ boat The Margrel. Inspector Gus Sickerdick said the chances of finding him alive again were diminishing. Picture: Tait Schmaal.

 

Tony Higgins’ boat The Magrel was last seen off Granite Island at about 3pm on Monday. Picture: Tait Schmaal.
Tony Higgins’ boat The Magrel was last seen off Granite Island at about 3pm on Monday. Picture: Tait Schmaal.

 

Debris found by fishermen near the Murray Mouth this morning. Picture: SAPOL
Debris found by fishermen near the Murray Mouth this morning. Picture: SAPOL

"We always hope that we do find him alive, (but) as it does go on, the chances of doing that are diminishing," Inspector Sickerdick said.

Police used a helicopter and a plane to search along the coast down to Cape Jaffa, but the waters were too rough to use rescue boats.

"The surf at the moment is fairly rough, the weather conditions are hampering all the searches," Inspector Sickerdick said on Wednesday afternoon.

Land patrols were searching along the coastline from Encounter Bay all the way down to the Murray Mouth.

Mr Robinson last spoke to his friend on the weekend, when he was caught by a low tide as he attempted to get closer to shore to obtain more supplies.

But, Mr Robinson said Mr Higgins was still intent on getting his boat on the Murray River and circle back to Goolwa.

He believes that Mr Higgins made an dash for the Murray Mouth on Tuesday morning, after people were "judging" him for his actions.

 

Flight path of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Challenger jet searching for Tony Higgins. Picture: FlightAware
Flight path of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Challenger jet searching for Tony Higgins. Picture: FlightAware

"Because of all the nastiness going on social media and people were hacking on him, he probably just thought stuff you guys I'll go out and charge through it," Mr Robinson said.

"What kind of a society do we live in where once someone's down we got to kick him?

"And we gotta keep kicking him?

"He would have got fed up with the amount of crap that he had to put up with and people judging him and people yelling at him, abuse from the wharf."

Mr Higgins made a distress call just after 5am on Tuesday. He was last seen anchored near Granite Island about 3pm on Monday.

Police are expected to continue searching into Wednesday evening and will commence a third day on Thursday.

"Tomorrow (Thursday) morning, we will be doing another search of the coast to see if there's anything else that may have washed up or if we can actually hopefully locate Mr Higgins," Inspector Sickerdick said.

"We will be assessing around about lunchtime, depending on what we find."

Mr Robinson said Mr Higgins is a "great fella" and "a bit nutty".

"He's a definite character, but he's a likeable fella once you get to know him and find out who he is."

Mr Higgins was previously fined for having insufficient safety equipment and an out-of-date Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

Mr Robinson believes authorities should have done more to help him after the first rescue.

"He was dragged to Granite Island. They found him, charged him, then they just left him there to his own devices in the seas.

"I think they should have helped bring him in, if his boat needed fixing. I think they should have given him a hand."

 

 

 

gabriel.polychronis@news.com.au

 

 

Originally published as Missing boatie's keys, ID found washed ashore

Tony Higgins on The Magrel at Victor Harbor earlier this month. Picture Matt Turner.
Tony Higgins on The Magrel at Victor Harbor earlier this month. Picture Matt Turner.

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