ONGOING SEARCH: Retired Dysart State School principal Gary Flower, 62, is still missing in the waters north of the Keppel Island Group.
ONGOING SEARCH: Retired Dysart State School principal Gary Flower, 62, is still missing in the waters north of the Keppel Island Group.

Family of Dysart man lost at sea prepare for worst

THE FAMILY of missing man Gary Flower is preparing for the worst as the ocean search wraps up for the third day.

The 60-year-old man from Dysart was reported missing on January 14 after he and a 62-year-old Yeppoon man attempted to swim to their seven-metre vessel which was dragging its anchor near Conical Rocks, north of North Keppel Island around 3am.

Earlier today police released Mr Flowers name to the public.

Acting Senior Sergeant Amanda Warby read a prepared statement from Mr Flower's family.

"It is understandably a very difficult time for all of us," she read.

"I would like to extend an enormous thanks to all the police and search and rescue personnel involved in the extensive search for our much-loved family member Gary Flower, who disappeared in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a tragic boating accident off North Keppel Island.

"Gary is a husband and adoring father for three adult children.

"He is much loved by all of his family and friends who know him well.

"He is well known in the education circles, having dedicated almost 40 years of service as a teacher and principal throughout Central Queensland and is also a much-respected volunteer and member of the wider community.

"Whilst we are clinging on to some small hope that Gary might still be found alive, we are obviously bracing ourselves for the worst. But we take comfort in the fact he was out doing what he loved, enjoying life with one of his best friends and closest friends who is much loved by the Flower family.

"We would like to extend our sincerest caring thoughts to him and his family, who have been going through a very rough time.

"I would also like to pass on our heartfelt thanks to the wider friends and family who have sent us messages of love and support."

Snr Sgt Warby said the family had requested privacy in this difficult time.

Gary Flower is a well-respected primary school teacher of 40 years, who served 32 years as both a principal and deputy principal in schools throughout Central Queensland. He enjoyed golf and travel and had a wide circle of friends.

He has a wife, two sons and a daughter. His parents live in Brisbane, and he has two brothers and a sister.

Sergeant Shaun Halson, Officer in Charge of Yeppoon Water Police, said the search would continue tomorrow and for a number of days.

"Today police used helicopter, Coast Guard and Water Police vessels to search for Gary," he said.

"Police and partner agencies have also combed the beaches in the search area.

"At last light today, police will continue with a scaled down operation that will involve Water Police vessels. Depending on weather conditions, for the next few days, Water Police vessels will continue to search.

"Police have remained in contact with Gary's family throughout the search and will continue to do so over coming days. Police wish to offer their thoughts and wishes to the family and friends of Gary."

Sgt Halson said Gary was camping and boating with a friend at Pleasant Island, about 14kms off Yeppoon.

"Gary was helping his friend to recover a drifting vessel in the early hours of Tuesday morning," he said.

"Upon being alerted to the incident, police undertook an immediate and comprehensive search for Gary.

"Four helicopters and one fixed wing aircraft were involved in the search, as well as a number of vessels from Coast Guard and Water Police.

"Police feel confident in the designated search areas and a number of items have been located within the target zone, including two life jackets, an inflatable vessel and two oars."

Sgt Halson said with the assistance of Australian Search and Rescue Canberra, RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service and Yeppoon Coast Guard, the search had continued for a further two days in the hopes Gary was able to find land.

He said Gary's friend, who was involved in the incident, had been released from hospital and was in shock.

"He is deeply destressed and saddened for his good and close friend," he said.

He said police would remain positive and continue to search in the hopes they find Gary alive and well.

"We will remain positive and will continue to search for Gary," he said.

"We do know a friend tried to throw a life jacket to Gary, we are unsure whether he was able to collect that jacket.

"We have favourable drift patterns pushing towards the main land, so we can continue to search both land and water."

Police will also continue to investigate the circumstances involving the incident.



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