Lost boat recovered as search for fisherman continues

Missing man Adrian Rodgers in a photo from his Facebook page.

Missing man Adrian Rodgers in a photo from his Facebook page.

THE search for an experienced Warrnambool fisherman who hasn't been heard from since Wednesday has resumed at first light on Friday morning.

Late Thursday night police reported the man's boat had been found adrift about 32 kilometres south of Warrnambool. Water police boarded the vessel and after finding no one onboard towed it back to port. 

Adrian Rodgers, 65, is believed to have left Port Fairy alone on his boat about 1.30pm on Wednesday to go fishing off Lady Julia Percy Island.

When he didn't return home to Warrnambool at 10pm his family contacted emergency services. Police began planning a sea and air search which was under way at dawn yesterday.

His 10.7-metre (35ft) boat is believed to be fitted with safety equipment but there has been no communication and emergency beacons have not been activated.

Up to 14 aircraft, including two police air-wing helicopters, searched the area of coast stretching from Portland to Warrnambool and further out to sea.

Warrnambool and Portland Coast Guard boats refuel in Port Fairy. Picture:DAMIAN WHITE

Warrnambool and Portland Coast Guard boats refuel in Port Fairy. Picture:DAMIAN WHITE

Portland and Warrnambool Coast Guard, Port Fairy Marine Rescue and two Water Police boats were also involved in the search.

Senior Sergeant Tania Barbary said yesterday afternoon there had been no contact from Mr Rodgers or a notification from an emergency beacon. She said conditions had been good yesterday, with minimal swell and clear visibility.

"At this point we've got no information about what's occurred," Senior Sergeant Barbary said, adding there were "no concerns that anything untoward has happened ".

“From what we understand he was a very experienced fisherman, both commercially and recreationally and he had a very healthy respect of the sea.

“The search area will keep getting widened until we find something.

“There is always hope.”

The police helicopter takes to the skies over Port Fairy. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

The police helicopter takes to the skies over Port Fairy. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

The mood was sombre at the Port Fairy wharf yesterday, where Mr Rodgers’ ute remained parked in front of the empty berth where his boat was normally moored.

Ray Bellamy lives across from Mr Rodgers’ berth and said he began to get worried about 6.30pm on Wednesday when he noticed he hadn’t returned.

“I saw him leave early afternoon and started looking out for him when he didn’t come back after dark,” Mr Bellamy told The Standard.

“I see him all the time, know him quite well.

“He’s a lovely bloke, very likeable.

“Hopefully it all turns out all right.”

Fishermen Ross Ferrier and Ron Arnott were also hopeful yesterday, saying conditions overnight on Wednesday were “relatively calm”.

“You never like to see this happen, but you can’t give up hope, you’ve just got to keep fingers crossed that everything turns out all right,” Mr Ferrier said.

“The experts are out there doing the best they can, so you’ve got to have hope.”

Another Port Fairy fisherman, Howard Sharp, said he believed Mr Rodgers had gone line fishing.

“He’s a solid bloke, well-experienced. He’s fished on much bigger boats, in much worse that this (conditions) he knows what he’s doing,” Mr Sharp said.

“He has everything on that boat up to scratch. It’s a bit of a shock.”

Much of the search took place around Lady Julia Percy Island. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

Much of the search took place around Lady Julia Percy Island. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

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