Sergeant Jeff Barnett and Constable Matt Habermann from Gladstone Water Police search the Dawson River near the Neville Hewitt Weir at Baralaba for a missing fencing contractor.
Sergeant Jeff Barnett and Constable Matt Habermann from Gladstone Water Police search the Dawson River near the Neville Hewitt Weir at Baralaba for a missing fencing contractor. Sharyn O'Neill

Police consider bringing in divers

POLICE are considering bringing in a dive squad as the search for a man missing in the flooded Dawson River intensifies.

Air, water and land searches this morning were unable to find any sign of the man, who went missing on Monday night.

Sergeant Jeff Barnett, of the Gladstone Water Police, said the Brisbane-based dive squad has a side-scan sonar device for a boat which may be able to help locate the man if they can identify a target area.

Sergeant Barnett said they were making enquiries with the Bureau of Meteorology to discuss the flow of water and could make a decision whether to bring in the squad this afternoon.

Earlier today search crews were hoping that a drop in the height of the Dawson River overnight would assist their efforts.

On Monday night, a spur-of-the-moment decision to swim across the flooded Dawson River at Baralaba may have cost a fencing contractor his life.

Exhaustive efforts yesterday failed to find the 44-year-old Cairns man.

The man had been staying in Baralaba with a co-worker for several weeks while working for Remote Building Solutions at Woorabinda.

Locals were yesterday shocked and saddened by the news of the man's disappearance, describing him as polite and friendly who had become involved socially within the town.

Search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Nick Paton said the men had gone for a drive on Monday, but were unable to get back across the flooded bridge.

They were at the Baralaba Golf Club and police said, with light fading, they attempted to swim back towards the lights of the Neville Hewitt Weir camping ground after 6pm on Monday.

“He (the missing man) got into trouble while crossing and was last seen heading towards the weir,” Senior Sergeant Nick Paton said.

One of the men was pulled him back to safety by a fisherman staying at the Neville Hewitt Weir camping ground.

Both the rescued man and his saviour waited at the search and rescue base yesterday for any news.

Police said there was no alcohol involved.

Sergeant Jeff Barnett of the Gladstone Water Police said the search would resume early this morning and police planned to expand their search area after it was suspended at 5pm yesterday.

The Capricorn Rescue Helicopter helped with the search on Monday evening and yesterday morning.

Senior Sergeant Paton said they were still “hoping for the best” and that they would find the man safe and well.

Within the town, locals were disheartened by the news of the man's disappearance.

One man remembers pulling drinks for Cairns men at the bar at last Saturday's camp draft, while Polly Bromley from the L. Major and Co store said it was a shock to the community.

“We're shocked and saddened,” she said.

“We've rarely had accidents in the river; it's probably been since the 1970s for the last one.”

The men's names haven't been released, but the missing man's family in Cairns has been notified.

Remote Building Solutions didn't wish to comment.

The Baralaba-Woorabinda Road was flooded after more than 100mm of rain fell around the town.

Locals said they expected the road to be cut for another week-and-a-half after floodwaters steadied at 8.2 metres yesterday afternoon, more than three metres above the road.

The Bureau of Meteorology has flood warnings current for the Dawson, Comet and Nogoa Rivers.


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