News ‘Element of frustration’: Second search for timber boat Margrel off SA coast

‘Element of frustration’: Second search for timber boat Margrel off SA coast

Tony Higgins on his boat Margrel after it ran aground off Granite Island on Saturday. Photo: ABC News
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A fisherman who sparked South Australia’s largest maritime search earlier this month has got into trouble again after a distress call was lodged overnight.

Just two weeks after the state’s largest air and sea search for the boat and its two crew on September 6, police said they received a call from a man on board on Tuesday morning asking for assistance.

Authorities launched a second search for the Margrel on Tuesday morning after a man on board, believed to be Tony Higgins, reported it was taking water off Granite Island, south of Adelaide.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said while search operations would always be conducted there was an “element of frustration” that the state’s resources had been called on again in this instance.

He said the first search cost in the order of $650,000.

“Search and rescue efforts will always be undertaken but there is an obligation that sits with all of us to act in a way that doesn’t put ourselves at risk,” Mr Stevens said.

“It’s unfortunate we are doing this again for the same person in such a short period of time.”

The ABC reported a call was received about 5am from the Margrel’s owner Tony Higgins after the wooden vessel began taking on water off Granite Island south of Adelaide.

Local freelance video journalist Gary Juleff told the ABC he was alerted before dawn, saying Mr Higgins had told police he was “knee deep in water” on board the boat.

“When I got down here, nobody could see the boat,” Mr Juleff said.

“The police went out on the causeway. Nobody could see him.

“They tried to phone him back – no answer – so the answer to this question is ‘nobody knows’.

“They said there’s nothing out there and we don’t know where he is.”

The same boat reportedly ran aground on a sandbar over the weekend after Mr Higgins tried to come ashore to buy supplies.

A South Australian police launch alongside the Margrel, with Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson on board. Photo: ABC

Earlier this month, the same fishing boat left Coffin Bay on September 3 with Mr Higgins and his friend Derek Robinson on board. On that Friday night the men made contact with a friend stating they were having engine trouble and were preparing to divert to Kangaroo Island.

Police said the men were not “in distress” at the time.

However, on September 6, police began a search after the friend notified police they had not heard from the men.

SAPOL’s Water Operations Unit, Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) searched for four days for the two men.

They were eventually found south-east of Victor Harbor on September 10.

Police with the assistance of a helicopter and Sea Rescue volunteers have gone to the area to look for the timber-hulled Margrel.