Community spirit shone bright during Returner search

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Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
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The Returner being lifted into a storage yard.
Camera IconThe Returner being lifted into a storage yard. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

With a coronial inquest underway this week into the tragic sinking of the Returner off the Pilbara coast in 2015, here is a reminder of how we all banded together in a remarkable act of community spirit to help the grieving families.

From the archives: July 22, 2015

Community generosity has once again shone brightly as the Pilbara digs deep in the wake of several tragedies off the region’s coast.

It has been a horror month in our waters with two deaths, one injury and the families of the three men on board a missing fishing trawler still praying for a miracle, but saying they feared their loved ones had died, at the time the Pilbara News went to press.

A GoFundMe campaign raised about $200,000 to help fund search efforts for Chad Fairley, Mason Carter, Murray Turner and the missing trawler, the Returner, which they were aboard.

Several local, national and big multinational companies have gone above and beyond the call of duty to supply vessels, equipment and food for the search party.

The volunteer sea rescue and water police crews have worked tirelessly since the call came out.

Sammy Carter, a distant relation of Mason’s, brought 200 takeaway containers full of food, plus baked goods, sweets and drinks all donated by the Hedland community and businesses to the search parties to keep them fed while they worked.

“There are three or four houses here housing 10 people at a time and they’re all out searching on boats and no one is here to cook so we figured we should get some prepacked meals down for them, ” she said.

“The boys are out on boats doing two to three-day trips now that they have all this food from Hedland. We will be coming back this weekend with more food and will keep coming back as long as it is needed.”

Mrs Carter said the support of the Hedland community, and that of Geraldton where the crew is from, had been outstanding.

Alan Fairley, father of Chad, said he had been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community.

“They warned us beforehand, 48 hours in the water, six days without food, but we’re the parents and we’re fortunate we’ve got this wide network of friends who are searching, ” he said.

“I really want to say thank you to the broader public, to the people of Western Australia, to the people who have donated on Facebook — that has just blown my mind.”

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