TRAWLER: The Dianne being lifted out of the water. It is currently at the Bundaberg Port Marina after being re-floated and tugged down the Burnett River this morning. Photo Ashley Clark / NewsMail
TRAWLER: The Dianne being lifted out of the water. It is currently at the Bundaberg Port Marina after being re-floated and tugged down the Burnett River this morning. Photo Ashley Clark / NewsMail Ashley Clark

Survivor reveals devastating details of Dianne tragedy

IN ONLY seconds the crew on board Dianne went from lying in their bunks to being upside down and up to their chests in water in total darkness.

The crew had no time to activate an emergency position indicating beacon, call for help or use any survival equipment when the Dianne made a fatal roll to port (the boat's left side) and sank off Seventeen Seventy on October 16, 2017.

The joint inquest into the sinking of vessels Cassandra in April 2016 and Dianne in October 2017 and the loss of eight crewmen began on Tuesday.

The bodies of skipper Ben Leahy and Adam Hoffman were found in the sunken vessel, almost a week after the recovery mission began.

The bodies of four men - Adam Bidner, Zachary Feeney, Chris Sammut and Eli Tonks - have not been found.

Ruben McDornan, the sole survivor of the Dianne sinking, gave evidence during the inquest at the Coroners Court on Tuesday.

Mr McDornan described the horrifying events that led to the Dianne's capsize, the sounds of his fellow crewmen trying to escape the wheelhouse underwater and the eight hours he trod water wearing nothing but shorts until help arrived.

Sammy and Ruben McDornan.
Sammy and Ruben McDornan. 60 Minutes

He told the court the vessel was travelling north and there was a strong southeasterly wind.

It caused the Dianne to roll to port and starboard frequently, a situation Mr McDornan said he was used to.

However, when the Dianne rolled to port about 7.15pm, it continued to roll until it was upside down.

"I jumped from my bunk directly onto the ladder and scrambled up into the wheelhouse," he said.

The skipper, Ben Leahy was already in the wheelhouse but fell on top of Mr McDornan when the vessel turned.

Mr McDornan said he could not remember how many of the remaining crew in the accommodation room followed him into the wheelhouse but said it was "packed tight".

"It's hard to put it into words ... it was like a rogue wave," Mr McDornan said.

"The boat was pretty much upside down and when I got into the wheelhouse I was standing on the ceiling.

"Water was coming in, it went over my head. I took a deep breath and tried to open the back door of the wheelhouse."

The MV Dianne at the Bundaberg Port Marina.
The MV Dianne at the Bundaberg Port Marina. Mike Knott BUN210218DIANNE4

Mr McDornan said he couldn't see anything, but felt the door come ajar slightly.

"It was completely black, I don't even know if I had my eyes open," he said.

"I put my hand in the gap and managed to squeeze through.

Mr McDornan said he used objects to find his way around in the darkness, unable to hear anything over the wind, waves and boat motor and eventually reached the surface.

He swam his way back to the vessel where he could faintly hear sounds coming from the wheelhouse and accommodation cabin.

Capsized trawler survivor Ruben Dornan reunited with his wife Sammy and mother after a rescue helicopter transported him from Agnes Waters to Gladstone Airport. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Capsized trawler survivor Ruben Dornan reunited with his wife Sammy and mother after a rescue helicopter transported him from Agnes Waters to Gladstone Airport. Photographer: Liam Kidston. Liam Kidston

He told the court he had something of a conversation with someone who he believed to be Mr Hoffman.

"I banged on the hull and got a response back," he said.

"I heard a scream and maybe the word 'Hey'.

"I asked him over and over again if he could get to the window, the door or the EPIRB.

"I just repeated this for hours."

By about 10pm the sounds from inside the wheelhouse and cabin became faint and by 10.30pm the Dianne was completely submerged.

By 11pm, Mr McDornan began to swim towards the shore.

Ruben McDornan (second from right) posted a picture of the Dianne crew on Facebook.
Ruben McDornan (second from right) posted a picture of the Dianne crew on Facebook.

He trod water for eight hours before a catamaran heard his calls for help and picked him up.

Counsel assisting the Coroner John Aberdeen told the court none of the men could access the EPIRB or safety equipment.

Mr Aberdeen said the life raft did not deploy and was found damaged on the seabed by police divers during the recovery mission.

He told the court divers also found a large freezer jammed in the doorway leading to the accommodation cabin.

The inquest continues.



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