TRAGIC INCIDENT: A man has drowned off Heron Island this morning.
TRAGIC INCIDENT: A man has drowned off Heron Island this morning.

Heron Island guest drowns during 'unsupervised' snorkel

8.47PM: Air crewman Pat Norton was on board a helicopter initially tasked to the search and rescue operation near Middle Island this morning when the craft was reassigned to look for the man at Heron Island.

"Our initial response was to go over and... locate him, possibly do a winch recovery," Mr Norton told The Observer.

"We've gone over, and en route they found him... they got him back to Heron Island (but) from that point he was in a bad way.

"When we arrived the CPR had been going on for quite some time and he was declared deceased.

"Island staff would have all worked together to give him the best chance. They've given him the best chance."

Mr Norton said conditions were difficult for rescuers, with 30-knot winds on arrival.

"There was some storm activity on the way to Heron too," he said.

"Today it would have been very difficult for a winch rescue, primarily because of the wind... it would have been challenging for sure."


4.13PM: HERON Island management has confirmed the man who died while snorkeling off the island this morning was a guest at Heron Island Resort.

"While information is still coming to hand, it appears the male guest in his 50s embarked on an unsupervised snorkel with his wife earlier this morning," a Heron Island spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the man informed his wife he was "struggling" and the two made efforts to return to shore, before his wife lost sight of him and alerted island staff.

"A full search of the area was immediately initiated where the male guest was last seen and after which a full circuit of the island was conducted.

"Following a search of the area, the snorkeler was located and was unresponsive.

"Despite the extended efforts of staff, he was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced deceased by Rockhampton rescue paramedics."

The spokesperson said Heron Island management was working with emergency services to clarify the exact cause of death and was cooperating fully with investigations.

"Staff and management of Heron Island extend our deepest sympathies to the wife, family and friends of the deceased and offer support to everyone at the resort affected by this event," the spokesperson said.

Heron Island drowning: Gladstone Water Police Sergeant Jeff Barnett addresses local media following the drowning death of a man snorkeling off Heron Island.


2PM: POLICE have confirmed a snorkeller has drowned off Heron Island this morning after he ventured into the water with his wife.

The man is reported to have struggled in the tide before he was pulled out to sea and disappeared.

An air search was launched after the wife raised the alarm before 9.45am today, but wild weather had hampered police efforts to join the search.

News of his death came shortly before Gladstone Water Police addressed local media on a separate marine search for six men, feared dead, after a trawler sank near Middle Island Monday night.

Sergeant Jeff Barnett said police were deploying air assets into the area to continue that marine search when they received reports the snorkeller had gone missing.

"Again we already had assets in the area so we were able to deploy, and we tasked one of our air assets immediately to the area as well as local units from Heron Island," Sgt Barnett said.

"And prior to their arrival a male person was located, he was taken to the Heron Island beach front where CPR was commenced and unfortunately he was deceased by the time the paramedics arrived."

WORST OUTCOME: Gladstone Water Police Sergeant Jeff Barnett.
WORST OUTCOME: Gladstone Water Police Sergeant Jeff Barnett addresses local media following the drowning death of a man off Heron Island. Mike Richards


Sgt Barnett said he was unable to confirm details on the man's identity, age or origin.

"Other than that he was swimming with his wife this morning, enjoying a snorkel out on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef and he appeared to struggle in the tide," he said.

"And the alarm was raised when he couldn't be seen by the wife who was swimming back from around the wreck area."

A Queensland Ambulance Service paramedic joined the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue in their search from 9.45am.

Sgt Barnett said the death, and feared deaths of six men, serves as a timely reminder to stay safe and avoid Central Queensland's current rough seas.

"(Conditions are) very similar to here," he said.

"But in the bay it is quite calm, but we do have big tides at the moment so the current there would have been reasonably strong, particularly for an inexperienced snorkeller or a person of a low-level fitness.

"Again obviously in these sort of weather conditions and as far as snorkeling incidents are concerned you should always do so safely. Always go with a buddy which was done in this instance which is a good thing.

"And if you've had a big night or are not feeling particularly healthy try and stay in the shallow areas and out of the current."