Sunday, May 06, 2007
The families of three yachties who disappeared from a "Ghost Ship" in the Whitsundays three weeks ago have abandoned their exhaustive private search for the trio. Conceding that Perth sailors Des Batten, 56, and brothers Peter and Jim Tunstead -- aged 69 and 63 -- are unlikely to be found, relatives will return home to Western Australia together. "They are looking today and then that will be the end of it," Jim Tunstead's daughter, Keryn Grey, said. For the past two weeks, the families' hunt has been relentless. Refusing to give up hope of finding the experienced sailors alive, they spent thousands of dollars chartering boats and aircraft to search kilometres of coast and ocean throughout the Whitsundays and north to Townsville.
Kaz IIMs Grey said it had been a painful decision for the families to abandon the search, but they believed they had done all they could. Since the trio's 9.8m catamaran Kaz II was found adrift 160km off Townsville on April 18, mystery has deepened over how the men vanished without trace. They set out on their trip from Shute Harbour at Airlie Beach on Saturday, April 14, but they returned that day after experiencing trouble with their GPS. They set sail again the next morning. It was the last day they were to be seen. At 6.45 that night, the men made a routine radio call to the Volunteer Marine Rescue service notifying of their position near George Point, south of Bowen. Their abandoned yacht was found three days later. While police believe it is most likely the men were swept overboard in rough weather, the latest theory to emerge is that the vessel hit a sandbar at George Point and as the men were in the water trying to free it, a gust of wind blew it out of their reach, leaving them stranded.