National

Inquest to explore Qld trawler deaths

By AAP Newswire

An inquest into the fate of eight fishermen - six of whom were never found - will scrutinise what caused two trawlers to sink in rough seas off the coast of Queensland.

Six men died when the FV Dianne sank off the coast of the Town of 1770 in October 2017.

Sole survivor Ruben McDornan clung to the hull of the boat, listening to the screams of his friends trapped inside, before it disappeared beneath the treacherous waves.

He spent the night treading water in open seas before a couple on a passing yacht heard his yells for help.

The bodies of two crew mates - 30-year-old Adam Hoffman and 45-year-old Ben Leahy - were later located by police divers.

The remaining fishermen - 39-year-old Eli Tonks, 33-year-old Adam Bidner, 28-year-old Zach Feeney and 34-year-old Chris Sammut - are presumed to have perished after police failed to find their bodies inside the salvaged wreck when it was finally lifted onto dry land.

An inquest into their deaths will be held in Gladstone in March.

A pre-inquest conference in the Mackay Coroners Court on Tuesday outlined the terms of the inquest, which will explore whether the vessel was structurally sound, if adequate safety equipment was on board, and if the search and rescue operation was sufficient.

Experts will also give evidence about whether future deaths could be avoided by making it compulsory for fishermen to wear life jackets while working, and have access to personal location beacons and 'grab bags' containing diving masks and portable air tanks in an emergency.

Similar issues will be explored in relation to the FV Cassandra, which capsized off Fraser Island in April 2016.

Skipper Matt Roberts, 61, and crewman David Chivers, 36, were trawling for prawns when the vessel overturned in rough seas just off Waddy Point, on the island's northeastern tip.

The trawler was later located 47 metres below the surface, but the men were never found.

The inquest will be held over two weeks from March 19, with the first week dedicated to the FV Cassandra and the second to the FV Dianne.

Closing submissions will be made on March 29.