Tasmania: Police puzzled after experienced yachtsman found dead off Flinders Island

Police say it is unclear how an experienced solo yachtsman who drowned off Tasmania’s north-east coast got into trouble. As reported by ABC News.

Published 11 years ago, updated 5 years ago

The body of 78-year-old Donald Joseph Marshall, from Queensland, was found yesterday afternoon, 12 hours after his 21-foot fibreglass yacht struck rocks west of Flinders Island.

He had made a mayday call about 1:45 am and his partially submerged yacht was found just east of Badger Island about four hours later.

Inspector John King says an inflatable dinghy was still attached to the yacht and police had held hopes that Mr Marshall had managed to make it to shore.

However, a rescue helicopter crew spotted his body in the water about two kilometres east of Badger Island early Tuesday afternoon.

Inspector King says the yachtsman had told Tamar Sea Patrol in his mayday call that he intended to stay on the boat. “And if he had to leave the vessel he would reactivate his EPIRB,” he said.

It is unclear what happened next.

Inspector King says some of the vessel’s sail was out when the yacht was found partially submerged. “It may indicate he was trying to sail through the area or it could equally mean that he was trying to sail off the rocks,” he said. ‘It was surprising how calm he was’

Tamar Sea Rescue’s Bryn Warrick took the mayday call and says Mr Marshall was calm and had planned to wait for help on the rocks where he ran aground. “He seemed to be alright, he seemed to be OK,” Mr Warrick said. “He said if anything happened there were big rocks in front of him, he said he’d climb out on those rocks and sit there and wait. That is what surprised me when the police said they couldn’t get word from him.”

The veteran sailor had already been rescued a number of times in the 30 years that he had been circumnavigating Australia.

A week and a half ago he was injured and had to be towed into Stanley Harbour by a local fisherman after his yacht was hit by a wave.

It is understood Mr Marshall was circumnavigating Australia, as he has done for 30 years.

Mr Marshall’s family is flying to Tasmania from Queensland.

See full story at ABC News

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