Families of missing men
call for investigation

By Jennifer Moran

Note: This is an ongoing report on the fate of three crew – Anthony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jaryd Payne – missing for more than a year following their disappearance at sea during the delivery of a Tui Marine/Sunsail catamaran from Cape Town to Phuket, Thailand. The report will be updated as information emerges. Previous reports from 2015 are available on the news pages of ratty.com.au

1 February 2016 update

The families of three men missing from the stricken catamaran which drifted for almost a year across the Indian Ocean and which has been lost again during a tow towards Cape Town, have called for an inquest and a full investigation.

In a statement issued today on behalf of Lisa and Paul Green, Trevor and Nicole Payne (family of Jaryd Payne); Storme and Jared Robertson (family of Reg Robertson); Jeremy Savage and Diane Coetzer, Philippa Savage and Nikki Calverley (family of Anthony Murray), the families have contradicted Tui Marine/Sunsail’s regular assertions that they are informing the families of developments and sharing the families’ concerns regarding the fate of the three men and their vessel.

Tui Marine/Sunsail have rebuffed the families of the three missing, saying they do not believe that a meeting will “serve any purpose”, according to the statement.

“We, the families of Anthony Murray, Reginald Robertson and Jaryd Payne, are plunged back into a state of utter distress at news that Moorings A5130 is again lost at sea.

“When our lawyers informed us on January 18th that an upturned hull had been sighted by the Brazilian Naval vessel Amazonas 78nm off Cape Recife (near Port Elizabeth) we were stunned.

“The last contact with our loved ones on their journey, from Cape Town to Phuket, Thailand, to deliver a catamaran was on January 18th 2015. Her position at that time was 26.00S 080.09E. To have her now appear so close to home and with the answers to what happened possibly within our reach, lifted our collective spirit. That it happened exactly a year to the day after the last contact with the catamaran was incredible to us.

“Although (agonisingly) only told of the sighting a full four days after it had been made, and also informed by the authorities that they would not be deploying any resources to locate the hull, we immediately set about doing what we could to bring the hull safely to port.

“With the help of our Facebook community (Searching For Anthony, Reg & Jaryd) we got the commiment of the NSRI to go to sea and put a satellite tracker on the hull if it came within reach of any of their coastal station vessels. In addition, the families took the decision to fund two air searches, with the help of experienced search and rescue pilot, Donovan Jordaan, River Air and Sheltam Aviation – all of whom have done what they can to bring their costs down in an effort to help. These took place on January 22nd and January 23rd.

“On Saturday January 23rd the NSRI informed us that another vessel had sighted the hull 42 nm off Cape Aghulas and they despatched two of their vessels to attach a satellite beacon. For this, and the images their divers captured, we will always remain grateful. After this, and with significant pressure from ourselves and our community, SAMSA authorised the tug Peridot to do the salvage early that evening.

“For reasons that we don’t fully understand, and which add to our ongoing pain and suffering, the tug lost the hull during the journey back to port and it has not been seen or found since.

“We now have certainty that the hull is that of Moorings A5130, the Leopard 44 catamaran that our men were delivering to Thailand where it would become part of Sunsail’s leisure fleet. This has come through underwater images captured by the NSRI divers on January 23rd which include the yacht’s identitifcation as a “Leopard 44” and the builder’s name, “Robertson & Caine (PTY) LTD, Cape Town, South Africa”. These images show that the catamaran has drifted thousands and thousands of kilometres to come home.

“Throughout this whole nightmare, we have been supported and helped in ways that we never thought possible. Over just the past few days, a Cape Town pilot has donated hours of flying over the potential new area of drift in search of the hull.

“This support by individuals – friends, family, strangers – and organisations has played no small part in helping us get through an unimaginably traumatic year.

“We are saddened to say that Sunsail/Tui Group has not been among these.

“We learnt through our lawyers, as well as press statements issued by Sunsail UK, that representatives of the Tui Group are in Cape Town. They flew in from the USA and other territories to ‘meet the vessel’.

“Since the start of this latest sighting, we have asked repeatedly to meet with these representatives.

“On Saturday January 30th our lawyers were informed that Sunsail/Tui Group does not beieve that it will ‘serve any purpose’ to meet with us.

“This goes directly against an official Sunsail press release dated 25 January 2016 that states, ‘any news will be reported first to the families and we will respect their wishes in terms of next steps. It remains a priority for Sunsail to find out what happened to the missing crew and boat.’

“Although distressed and deeply angry at this, we are not surprised at Sunsail/Tui Group’s refusal of our request.

“From the onset, the three families have had to drive, first a search and rescue mission, and now a search and recovery effort.

“WE implored the company for help and information when we realised we had not heard from our men in the days after January 18th 2015, only to be told that we were over-reacting. We were told that our men had encountered ‘a little bit of bad weather’. We were never told about their position in the path of Cyclone Bansi, which reached windspeeds of over 180 kms per hour.

“WE reported the catamaran missing to the Maritime Rescue Co-ordinating Centre on February 11th and February 12th 2015. The company resisted this most fundamental of nautical codes – although, since then, WE have had to repeatedly request Sunsail/Tui Group not to misrepresent this fact.

“WE created the Facebook community that has grown to nearly 5000 individuals who have assisted in the search for our men and then the hull over the past year.

“WE are the ones who live with the knowledge that, had any or all of our men survived the events of January 18th, they were denied the chance of rescue because a multi-billion dollar global company chose not to alert the maritime safety authorities when scheduled report-ins were missed. Authorities told us that losing contact with a vessel at a time of severe weather warrants the issuing of a situation of ‘uncertain distress’ by maritime safety authorities, should they be made aware of the situation.

“And so much more.

“Our anguished queries to Sunsail/Tui Group have always been reasonable and respectful and directed only towards finding our men and the catamaran.

“For reasons we have NEVER understood, we have been treated as adversaries. We still remain shocked at Sunsail/Tui Group’s decision to arrive at a MRCC family briefing with a team of lawyers in April 2015, which directly led to the three families having to do the same – something we would not have chosen and thereby adding to our financial costs.

“Since then, we have been met by systematic corporate and legal bullying – this from a group whose 2014/2015 turnover growth grew to 20.01 billion euros. Instead of those wanting to join in discovering what happened to our men and the yacht, Sunsail/Tui Group have dispatched lawyers and executives who see no “purpose” in meeting with us.

“We have have lost jobs and income. Our families have felt the impact of our collective dedication to first rescuing our loved ones and then putting every effort into the recovery of the hull after it was sighted not once, but four times. We have suffered – and we keep on suffering.

“But we will not stop.

“We are calling for an inquest into the incident and a full investigation.

“We hereby commit to dedicate ourselves to finding, not just the answers of what happened to our loved ones, but to improving conditions, establishing fairer practices and enforcing compliance with legislation for working sailors around the world. We will do this with the single aim of making their lives safer.

“We call on Sunsail/Tui Group to do right by us. They flew in to meet the hull. It mystifies the anguished human beings left behind why they simply refuse to meet with us.”

Tui Marine/Sunsail issued a statement mid-afternoon Cape Town time to say a further air search for the catamaran would be carried out today.

Spokesperson Marion Telsnig said Sunsail’s team in Cape Town were continuing to liaise with the local authorities.

“Sunsail has received a request to meet with the families and is happy to organise a private meeting with them, either individually or as a group, however at the present time the management of Sunsail are focussed on trying to locate the vessel and so it would prefer that any such meeting take place at a later date.”

30 January 2016 update

Tui Marine/Sunsail has told ratty.com.au that they conducted an air search for the missing catamaran on 29 January 2016. No further details were given but in a previous press release, spokesperson Marion Telsnig said:

“Sunsail is funding the air search in the hope that the missing vessel can be found. Sunsail’s team in Cape Town are continuing to liaise with the local authorities.”

It is believed that the air search funded by Tui Marine/Sunsail was flown for a few hours and has not, so far, been continued.

The tug Peridot was recalled from its search for the catamaran on the evening of 28 January following its loss of the catamaran during the tow back to Cape Town.

29 January 2016 update

The stricken catamaran which was being towed back to Cape Town after drifting for a year at sea is once more lost and now even harder to find.

The tug Peridot, which was towing the upturned hull to Cape Town, lost the vessel sometime on 27 January. Since then the Peridot has conducted a search of the area, tracking the expected path of drift, looking for the hull.

The tracking device fitted by the National Sea Rescue Institute is no longer transmitting. It is not known whether its batteries have failed or whether it is submerged. It is believed the catamaran has taken on more water and so is no longer floating with its upturned hulls out of the water but drifting mostly under water.

The families of Antony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jaryd Payne, who were gathering in Cape Town for the arrival of the tow, have been forced to face yet another harrowing setback in their attempt to bring the catamaran back.

Storme Robertson, daughter of Reg Robertson, posted on the Facebook support page that the family had been informed that in the absence of aerial support, the search for the hull was called off at 7:30pm South African time on 28 January.

“We have so many unanswered questions and are as confused as you about the salvage operation – and whether the hull broke up and sank or if she is still adrift. Captain Duse, master of the Peridot, reported to SAMSA a loss of buoyancy due to the towing causing a “porpoising” effect which means the hull was submerged just below the surface of the water with only the rudder and keels breaking the surface at times until she then ‘slipped the tow ‘.

“Given the difficulty in spotting the hull in this condition from another boat, the master has recommended an aerial search as the best chance of finding the drifting hull. As of now, we have not heard from the authorities or the boat owners as to their action plan regarding this.

“We are shattered. We are broken. We are losing our loved ones – not just once but over and over again. Each time our hopes of answers are crushed. But we stand firm together, as a united family group, and with all of you, and we will keep going and keep pushing to find that hull and bring her home.”

Donations to help the family pay for an aerial search can be made to a trust fund: Standard Bank – Rosetta Road Branch, Account Holder: The M R and P Salvage Trust, Account Number: 051456265, Branch Code: 04 27 26 Swift Code: SBZAZA JJ or to the GoFundMe account.

 

26 January 2016 update

The salvage tug Peridot is on its way back to Cape Town with the stricken catamaran which has drifted back across the Indian Ocean for the past year. Its three crew, Anthony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jaryd Payne, have been missing since 18 January 2015, when last contact was made.

Following the fourth sighting of the upturned hull (the second sighting off the South African coast), the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) despatched boats to locate the yacht and attached a tracking device.

The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, a division of the South African Maritime Safety Authority, then sent the Peridot to collect the overturned catamaran on 23 January 2016.

The tug is currently travelling slowly back to Cape Town with the catamaran.

“Once at a safe place the catamaran will be inspected by SAMSA and other authorities before being handed over to the owners,” said Captain Ravi Naicker, National Operations Manager for SAMSA’s Centre for Sea Watch and Response.

Marion Telsnig, spokesperson for Tui Marine/Sunsail, owners of the catamaran, said: “We are now awaiting news of the recovery operation and the estimated arrival time of the yacht back into Cape Town where we intend to have a Sunsail team to meet the vessel.”

24 January 2016 update

The tug Peridot has been despatched by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre to tow the upturned catamaran which has drifted for a year at sea.

This follows the tagging of the yacht with a tracking device, giving  the families of Anthony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jaryd Payne hope that the yacht will finally be retrieved and some of their questions answered.

“We are thrilled to report that the NSRI successfully reached the upturned hull and were able to attach a satellite tracker to it. The overturned hull proved too heavy for their boats to bring in right away, and conditions were not conducive for a definitive identification by the divers who were part of the, Diane Coetzer, sister in law of Anthony Murray, wrote on the Facebook support page.

“We are so very, very grateful to the amazing, brave and committed NSRI teams for taking immediate action and for reaching the hull. If you don’t yet support this world-class organisation with monthly donations, we urge those of you who are able to, to please do so. We are exhausted, and we are emotionally battered but we are confident that the hull will be brought to shore. We also thank River Air and their team as well as yesterday’s air crew for their dedicated efforts in the search effort mounted by the three families. We hope to have more updates soon.”

The tagging follows the second sighting of the catamaran off the south east coast of South Africa.

“We  are overjoyed to report that our family group got a call from the NSRI a little while ago to say that another boat has sighted what we believe to be our hull,” Diane Coetzer wrote on a previous posting on the Facebook support page. “The NSRI are now deploying their resources to get to the hull, fit a tracking device, examine the hull and attempt to bring it to shore. As you know from this group, the NSRI and the families have been working together since we first got the news of the sighted hull on Monday, and we are extremely grateful to this incredible organisation for everything they are doing at the moment. We are so close to getting to the hull – something we have done on our own, with help from amazing individuals, and organisations, including all of you.”

Two hours after that posting on Facebook, Marion Telsnig, spokesperson for Tui Marine, the parent company of Sunsail which owns the yacht, responded to ratty.com.au’s question of 20 January 2016 whether the company would be starting a sea or air search.

“Sunsail has approached a number of professional response companies to assess the feasibility of sending out a team to the possible area where the, as yet unidentified yacht, might be located. Subject to the advice and recommendation of the professional response companies and taking into consideration prevailing drift patterns, Sunsail shall seek to engage one of the professional response companies to investigate the area. A leading oceanographer specialising in the Agulhas Current noted that the odds of finding the vessel are potentially very low.

“Sunsail is in the process of advising the families of the missing crew of the current plans. The purpose of the search will be to attempt to locate the yacht and determine if it is indeed the RC044-978.”

Ms Coetzer said the three families have not been contacted by Sunsail or Tui Marine with any details or information about their plans or whom they have consulted.

 

23 January 2016 – update

An air search will resume today for the upturned hull of the catamaran, missing for more than a year, that was sighted off the coast of South Africa last week.

In a post on the Facebook page set up to support the search for the catamaran, family member Nicole Payne posted: “Unfortunately due to the aircraft’s fuel limitations and other factors, after just 3 hours of searching the team were unable to spot the hull and had to return home. Naturally, we are very disappointed but, as we have said before, we are NOT giving up. The family members have taken a decision to send out a plane again tomorrow, to pick up on the search. We will be making use of a different aircraft, with additional spotters to try locate the hull.

“We have no choice but to fund this ourselves, due to the fact that the weather conditions are perfect tomorrow and we cannot waste any time in getting back out there. In addition, the experts we are working with, have suggested that by Sunday the hull will most likely be picked up by the Cape Agulhas current and taken approximately 300nm offshore. This will make it almost impossible to locate again and we will then find ourselves in the same awful situation we have been for the past 6 months – desperately waiting for yet another sighting that could take months or even years.”

Members of the public who wish to contribute to the costs of the search can make a donation on the GoFundMe page.

 

19 January 2016

Within a week of the anniversary of the last communication from the Tui Marine Sunsail/Moorings catamaran that went missing in the Indian Ocean in the wake of the Cyclone Bansi in January last year, an upturned hull has been sighted within a day’s sail of the South African coast.

Anthony Murray, Reginald Robertson and Jaryd Payne last communicated with family on 18 January 2015 as they sailed from Cape Town to Phuket to deliver the Leopard catamaran. On that date they were in the path of Bansi and their families soon tried to raise their concerns for their men’s safety.

According to a family post today on the Facebook page, Searching for Anthony, Reg and Jaryd, the family was informed, as they commemorated their loved ones, that the hull had again been sighted. It was previously sighted in May and again in June last year.

“On this day of emotion, anguish and heartache, our attorneys received and passed onto us the incredible news that an overturned hull had been sighted 113 nm off Cape Recife, near Port Elizabeth. Although SAMSA cannot confirm it is our hull, and have also informed us that they will not be deploying any recovery resources, photographs sent by the ship that sighted it lead us to believe that it is Moorings A5130,” Diane Coetzer posted.

“We have since learnt that the sighting was in fact made by the Brazilian Navy Ship Amazonas (to whom we are very grateful) early in the day on January 14th and reported to the SA Navy. This means that a drift pattern urgently needs to be done for the current location of the hull as every hour and day that passes increases the area of search. The hull is now within range of an air search as well as a sea search. We desperately want whatever answers the hull might provide and are urgently appealing for any and all resources and help to reach it.”

A friend and a member of the family reported the men missing to MRCC in Cape Town on 11 February and 12 February 2015.

Supported by the Facebook group, Searching for Anthony, Reg and Jaryd, in scanning satellite images for a trace of the missing yacht, the families weathered countless setbacks as days turned to weeks, and weeks to months.

In May last year and again in June, the upturned hull was spotted by ships near Mauritius. After pressure from the family, the public and press, Tui Marine hired the Comarco Swift to search for the boat but the expedition returned to port empty handed.

 

 

 


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