REEF CAT DISASTER: Search for 'maritime hazard' catamaran

WHAT WE KNOW: 

• 42 passengers and four crew were on board Lady Musgrave Cruise's catamaran Spirit of 1770 when it caught fire.

• The fire started in the engine room about 4pm Wednesday.

• The boat was 10 nautical miles east of Seventeen Seventy.

• Most aboard the vessel were reported to be Chinese nationals staying in Bundaberg and on a day cruise.

• At 4.30pm all aboard jumped into life rafts.

• Emergency services set up a triage centre at Seventeen Seventy and worked to bring them safely to shore. The first passengers arrived on shore about 9m Wednesday night.

• Three patients were taken to the Gladstone Hospital with back and chest pain and the remaining eight were taken to the Bundaberg Hospital.

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The Spirit of 1770 up in flames. Photo: Courier Mail
The Spirit of 1770 up in flames. Photo: Courier Mail

UPDATE 4.15pm: 

Queensland's water police unit have teamed up with Maritime Safety Queensland as they scour the sea bed off Agnes Water's coast for the reef boat that went up in flames yesterday. 

Agnes Water's senior constable Simon Burns, who worked into the early hours of this morning, said the vessel needed to be found as it could be a "maritime hazard".

"Being a fairly busy maritime area, you just want to be able to mark the spot where it is," he said.

"It can be a maritime hazard for vessels travelling along there," he added.

He said authorities would decide if they would dive to the wreckage but that would depend on how deep it is.

He also said police are currently obtaining statements from a range of people involved in the incident.

Meanwhile, all of the passengers who were admitted to Gladstone and Wide Bay Hospital have now been discharged.

A Wide Bay Hospital spokesman said the patients suffered a range of injuries, including cuts, dehydration, and sea sickness. 

UPDATE 12.49pm:

RACQ CARE flight has released fresh footage of the boating burning off the coast of Agnes Water.

Smoke is seen billowing from the catamaran -- which was well alight -- as the helicopter circles around it.

UPDATE 11.13am:

Maritime Safety Queensland are currently going over the versions of events from the crew of the Spirit of 1770.

Gladstone Police Inspector Darren Somerville said the ship had still not been seen since 8.30pm and could have sunk.

LISTEN: Inspector Darren Somerville said police are still making "inquiries" 

EARLER 10.20am:

The life rafts that passengers and crews from Spirit of 1770 had to swim to yesterday afternoon were brought back to the marina just after midnight.

Last night passengers said they had to jump of the sinking tourist boat and swim to the life rafts.

While on the rafts many became seasick during the six hour wait before they returned back to the 1770 Marina.

EARLIER 9.30am:

There are still three passengers at the Gladstone Hospital who are all in a stable condition.

Two of the patients are aged in their 50s and another in their 60s.

A spokesman for Bundaberg Hospital says eight people have been discharged from the hospital.

DragonflyUAV captured these images of the Spirit of 1770 passengers at the Seventeen Seventy Marina after they were rescued from the sinking cruise boat.
DragonflyUAV captured these images of the Spirit of 1770 passengers at the Seventeen Seventy Marina after they were rescued from the sinking cruise boat. DragonflyUAV

They had been medically assessed, treated and discharged.

The patients had suffered minor conditions including cold, dehydration, scratches and lacerations.

UPDATE 8.20am:

UNTIL 11pm last night the 1770 Marina Cafe handed out hot food, coffee and water to passengers and rescuers as they came ashore from the sinking Spirit of 1770.

Owner Ruth Geck said it showed the Agnes Water community's resilience and spirit as everyone worked together to help the distressed passengers.

"I was just running backwards and forwards with drinks and food," she said.

Ruth Geck loved the whale watching tour at Hervey Bay. Photo Contributed
Ruth Geck loved the whale watching tour at Hervey Bay. Photo Contributed Contributed

 

"Some of our staff stayed back too to help out."

They handed hot water to Chinese tourists, and Foodworks visited with grocery items like noodles for the cafe to cook and share.

Mrs Geck was shocked by some comments that come from the passengers.

"While it looked quite nice in the marina it sounds like it was quite rough where they were," she said.

"One girl told me she was a good swimmer but by the time she got to the liferaft she was exhausted."

Agnes Water hotels offered the passengers accommodation for the night.

Fishermen also were involved with the rescue mission, taking their boats out to the incident to retrieve the passengers and crew.

UPDATE 6.40am:

ELEVEN passengers were taken to Bundaberg and Gladstone Hospitals last night in a stable condition from the sinking Spirit of 1770. 

Multiple QAS paramedics set up a staging area at the Seventeen Seventy jetty to receive the 42 passengers as they arrived ashore.

INTERACTIVE MAP | How it unfolded

All were triaged with 23 immediately passing through the marshaling area.

Three patients were taken to the Gladstone Hospital with back and chest pain and the remaining eight were taken to the Bundaberg Hospital.

UPDATE 12:00AM:

QUEENSLAND Ambulance Service commandeered a tourist bus to transport 16 patients to Bundaberg Base Hospital from the sinking ship Spirit of 1770.

There were another three patients taken to Gladstone Hospital by ambulance. 

All patients were in a stable condition but very shaken, scared and seasick after the ordeal.

Gladstone Police Investigator Darren Somerville said the 46 passengers on the boat were terrified with some not knowing how to swim.

He said a helicopter and fixed wing plane were used to monitor the passenger until they were rescued by Gladstone Volunteer Marine Rescue, a crabbing boat and a charter boat.

He said the last time the Spirit of 1770 was sighted was at 8.30pm and police are now unsure if it has sunk or not.

The investigation will continue in the morning.

EARLIER 11:00pm:

A CHINESE tourist who was rescued from the boat that set fire off the coast of Agnes Water has tried to explain the ordeal.

The tourist, who has little English speaking ability, said it was "not good" and gestured to show he had been sea sick throughout the wait to come to shore.

Passengers were stuck on life rafts from shortly before 4pm until late this evening until they were finally transferred to a crabbing boat and a VMR vessel.

It's not yet known why it took until late this evening to get the passengers to shore. It's understood most of the passengers were Chinese, New Zealand, and Canadian nationals. 

UPDATE 10:05pm: 

A FIRE truck that was at the marina in Seventeen Seventy got stuck when the tide rose over its front wheels this evening.

Emergency crews are using a LARC to tow it out of the water and up the boat ramp. 

A fire truck got stuck at the bottom of the boat ramp at Agnes Water when the tied rose over its front wheels.
A fire truck got stuck at the bottom of the boat ramp at Agnes Water when the tied rose over its front wheels.

 

UPDATE 9.50PM:

ALL of the passengers are off the rescue boats and are being treated by paramedics. Some of the elderly patients are in shock but there are no serious injuries. 

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EARLIER 9.50PM: 

AROUND 20 passengers have arrived to the marina at Agnes Water. The passengers, many of which are elderly, are wet and appear to be worn out.

A crabbing boat and a VMR vessel brought the first two loads of passengers before turning around to collect more.

UPDATE 9pm: 

THE first passengers who were rescued from the burning boat off Lady Musgrave Island have arrived on a crabbing boat at the Seventeen Seventy Marina.

First passengers back to shore after the boat they where on caught fire this evening. May 11th, 2016
First passengers back to shore after the boat they where on caught fire this evening. May 11th, 2016 Paul Braven

Elderly people are being escorted off the fishing boat first.

Police are checking passengers off a list of passengers before they walk off the jetty. 

UPDATE 8pm:

PASSENGERS who have been rescued from a burning boat won't be on shore for at least another hour.

The passengers are currently on life rafts and are waiting to be transferred to three rescue boats, which will then bring them to shore.

The first photo has emerged of the burning Spirit of 1770, crew onboard the Bundaberg CareFlight Rescue Helicopter captured the boat from above. Photo Courtesy RACQ CareFlight Rescue
The first photo has emerged of the burning Spirit of 1770, crew onboard the Bundaberg CareFlight Rescue Helicopter captured the boat from above. Photo Courtesy RACQ CareFlight Rescue Courtesy RACQ CareFlight Rescue

There is at least a dozen emergency vehicles waiting at the Seventeen Seventy marina for the passengers to arrive.  

The Marina at Agnes Water where passengers are expected to arrive shortly.
The Marina at Agnes Water where passengers are expected to arrive shortly.

The passengers are currently on life rafts and are waiting to be transferred to three rescue boats, which will then bring them to shore.

UPDATE 6.52pm:

Paramedics and emergency personnel are awaiting the arrival of more than 40 passengers evacuated from the burning Spirit of 1770 catamaran.

A triage centre has been set up at the VMR Boat Ramp at 1770.

LISTEN: Witness says watching boat burn is "awful"

It is expected the first of the passengers will arrive in about an hour and a half.

Ambulance supplies were ferried to 1770 from the Toolooa Boat ramp earlier this afternoon. There had been some media reports that passengers had actually been taken to the Toolooa boat ramp, however this later proved untrue.

UPDATE 6.33pm: 

AN AGNES Water man has described a massive operation underway off the coast of Agnes Water as huge.

Wayne "Grom" Mellick said police and rescue boats, and a helicopter can be seen around the boat, which is miles off the coast.

He said "it's the biggest thing I've ever seen".

He said residents watched on in horror as the boat -- believed to be the Spirit of 1770 -- went up in flames on the horizon. 

Despite earlier reports that the passengers were bought to Gladstone, police have just released a statement saying the passengers are still at sea on a rescue vessel. 

"Police will commence transporting passengers to land at 1770 where they will be medically assessed," they said. 

UPDATE 6.20pm: 

A LARGE scale rescue operation is underway off the coast of Agnes Water.

A witness on the scene has said he can see a "red glow" out to sea as the boat which caught on fire this afternoon continues to burn. 

Some media are reporting the passengers on the boat have been brought to the Toolooa boat ramp in Gladstone however there has been no evidence of this. 

UPDATE 6pm: 

THE passengers on a boat that burst into flames off Lady Musgrave Island are believed to have been transported to the Toolooa boat ramp in a VMR vessel.

Two paramedics were on the VMR vessel and set up triage to assess the 42 passengers who were evacuated from the vessel.

UPDATE 5.36pm:

IT has been confirmed that the boat that caught on fire 10 nautical miles off Lady Musgrave Island is the Spirit of 1770.

AGNES WATERS: Tourists stranded at Agnes Waters arrive in Gladstone on the Spirit of 1770 ferry, Wednesday. Photo Kerry Thomas/The Observer GLA291210AGNE1
AGNES WATERS: Tourists stranded at Agnes Waters arrive in Gladstone on the Spirit of 1770 ferry, Wednesday. Photo Kerry Thomas/The Observer GLA291210AGNE1 Kerry Thomas

A Queensland ambulance spokeswoman said an effort to rescue the 42 people on board was headed by the Volunteer Marine Rescue.

"Reports indicate the fire started in the engine room," the spokeswoman said. 

UPDATE 5.20pm:

IT'S understood the boat is carrying up to 50 people.

Police have said that they believe there are at least 46 passengers who were on board a ship that was sinking off Lady Musgrave Island.

But they are yet to confirm figures.

EARLIER: 

A BOAT carrying 40 people has gone up in flames off Agnes Water.

It's understood the boat, believed to be the Spirit of 1770, is about 10 miles off shore.

Queensland Water Police are heading the rescue. 

Other media are reporting passengers have jumped into life rafts.

More to come. 



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