SLIM HOPES: Emergency services prepare to take off from the rescue headquarters at the Ballina airport to continue the search f
SLIM HOPES: Emergency services prepare to take off from the rescue headquarters at the Ballina airport to continue the search f

Hopes fade for missing skipper

By ANDY PARKS andy.parks@northernstar.com.au THE search for missing trawler skipper Charlie Picton is expected to continue this morning, but hope is dwindling the popular Yamba fisherman will be found alive.

Yesterday against all odds a second crew member, John Jarrett, of Evans Head, was found alive nine kilometres off Lennox Head. He had been in the water for up to 30 hours, clinging to an esky.

A third crew member, Michael Williams, remains sedated in Mullumbimby Hospital after surviving an amazing 12km ocean swim most of the day Wednesday.

The nets of the 18-metre trawler Sea Rogue are believed to have become entangled on a reef, 13km off the coast of Byron Bay, in the early hours of Wednesday, pulling the boat under and throwing the three crew members into the water, possibly within seconds.

At some point, Mr Williams made the decision to swim for land and it was his epic 10-hour swim that alerted authorities to the other two men still in the water. He was found by a walker on New Brighton Beach about 4pm on Wednesday.

The water police boat Fearless was brought up from Coffs Harbour and the Australian Search and Rescue fixed-wing aircraft Adornia was also called in, along with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter from Lismore. As the search went on volunteer pilots and commercial boat owners also joined in.

About 8am on Thursday, Mr Jarrett was winched from the water by paramedics and taken to Ballina hospital, where he remains in a satisfactory condition.

Search controller for the police, Superintendent Mark Hutchings, praised the efforts of everyone involved in Mr Jarrett's successful recovery.

However, Supt Hutchings said they held grave concerns for the survival of Charlie Picton because of the length of time he'd been in the water.

The search continued until nightfall last night and Supt Hutchings said an assessment of what to do today would be made this morning.



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