Doug Hunt's family of missing fisherman 'pray for safe return'

Douglas Hunt, with one of his children. Photo: Supplied
Douglas Hunt, with one of his children. Photo: Supplied

PORT Macquarie has thrown its support behind the family of missing fisherman Doug Hunt.

Schools will hold fundraising activities later this week and an online campaign also is bring promoted and shared far and wide.

The partner of one of three missing fisherman, Douglas Hunt, said the family is "praying for his safe return" after the air and sea searches near Fraser Island for the missing trawler were scaled back.

"I think that's keeping me strong at the moment," Tracey Lee told Fairfax Media.

"The least I can do is have as many people praying and believing for a miracle, because as you know the situation looks really grim." 

Missing fisherman Douglas Hunt, pictured with his partner Tracey Lee and their family of six children. Photo: Supplied

Missing fisherman Douglas Hunt, pictured with his partner Tracey Lee and their family of six children. Photo: Supplied

Ms Lee said her 38-year-old partner took the job to make some extra money for the Christmas period for their family of six children.

"The really awful things is that he'd been out of it [fishing] for five years," she said.

"He just really felt that it would be a good opportunity to make some money for us for Christmas."

Mr Hunt is one of three men still missing, along with a 24-year-old man and another aged 60, after their prawn trawler Night Raider lost contact the day after it departed Urangan at Hervey Bay on November 11.

The trawler failed to arrive as scheduled on the Sunshine Coast on November 18, but police said this was not out of character for the crew.

Douglas Hunt with some of the family at Christmas. Photo: Supplied

Douglas Hunt with some of the family at Christmas. Photo: Supplied

An extensive air search for the missing vessel began on November 25 coordinated by the Hervey Bay Water Police, which included aircraft from RACQ LifeFlight and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

On Monday, police conducted shoreline patrols and messages were broadcast through the marine radio network to alert other vessels in the area of the search.

The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopthas er conducted an extensive search along the south-east Queensland coast, but found no trace of the missing trawler. Photo: RACQ LifeFlight Rescue

The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopthas er conducted an extensive search along the south-east Queensland coast, but found no trace of the missing trawler. Photo: RACQ LifeFlight Rescue

Ms Lee said the "safety conscious" Mr Hunt left their Port Macquarie home on November 9 to help the skipper do some work on the boat, and she spoke to him everyday until it left port.

She only told their children aged between six and 21 that their father was missing yesterday, telling them to hope for a miracle but also giving them the reality of the situation.

"It's sort of the philosophy of believe for the best, but preparing for the worst," she said.

Now with her mum and the children's aunt there for support, Ms Lee said the family are coping alright, for now, but the kids are missing their "hands on" dad.

"For now they [the kids] are fine, they're okay, we're all really obviously starting to miss him anyway, because it's been a while now."

Third trawler incident in a year

Jill Barclay, vice-commodore for Volunteer Marine Rescue Hervey Bay, said it's the third trawler incident outside Fraser Island in the last 12 months.

"The last two got their nets caught on bommies [reef shelves] on the bottom which pulled them up sharply and flips them over," she said.

The large trawlers were fishing after dark, so Ms Barclay said the incidents always happen "after one o'clock, three o'clock in the morning."

Two men were rescued after their trawler capsized in the early hours of Tuesday morning on November 8. The search for a third man, the skipper, was called off the next day following advice that the man could not have survived past Wednesday.

In April, fisherman David Chivers, 36, and Matt Roberts, 60 disappeared after their prawn trawler capsized off the east coast of Fraser Island.

This article first appeared on Brisbane Times