Family of the FV Dianne crew have released a rehabilitated turtle named after the sunken vessel. Dianne the green turtle is released off the Moore Reef pontoon by Jodie Bidner, vet Jo Sussex (obscured), Kay Bidner and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-founder Jennie Gilbert. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Family of the FV Dianne crew have released a rehabilitated turtle named after the sunken vessel. Dianne the green turtle is released off the Moore Reef pontoon by Jodie Bidner, vet Jo Sussex (obscured), Kay Bidner and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-founder Jennie Gilbert. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Boat tragedy relatives send messages of love out to sea

MESSAGES of love to the six men who died at sea in the FV Dianne tragedy last year were whispered to a sea turtle before it was released back onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Jodie and Kay Bidner, the sister and mother of lost crew member Adam Bidner, joined the release of the rehabilitated 20-year-old green sea turtle from Sunlover Reef Cruises' pontoon at Moore Reef, about 40km off Cairns.

 

Family of the FV Dianne crew have released a rehabilitated turtle named after the sunken vessel. Dianne the green turtle is released off the Moore Reef pontoon by Jodie Bidner, vet Jo Sussex (obscured), Kay Bidner and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-founder Jennie Gilbert. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Family of the FV Dianne crew have released a rehabilitated turtle named after the sunken vessel. Dianne the green turtle is released off the Moore Reef pontoon by Jodie Bidner, vet Jo Sussex (obscured), Kay Bidner and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-founder Jennie Gilbert. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

 

The turtle, which had survived a shark attack, was rescued from the coral reef a month after the Dianne sunk off the coast of Gladstone, on October 16, 2017, claiming the lives of six men - including four whose bodies have not been recovered.

 

Dianne the turtle being loaded onto Sunlover Cruises before her release back into the ocean. PHOTO: Brendan Radke
Dianne the turtle being loaded onto Sunlover Cruises before her release back into the ocean. PHOTO: Brendan Radke

 

The lone survivor of the tragedy, Cairns man Ruben McDorman, suggested the reptile be named in honour of his fellow crew members.

Dianne, who lost a section of her shell and a rear right flipper to the shark, had been recuperating at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre's facilities at Portsmith, and at the Cairns Aquarium.

 

Flowers left at the Town of 1770 after the sinking of the Dianne. Inset: Victims Chris Sammut, Zac Feeney, Eli Tonks and Adam Bidner, whose bodies have not been found.
Flowers left at the Town of 1770 after the sinking of the Dianne. Inset: Victims Chris Sammut, Zac Feeney, Eli Tonks and Adam Bidner, whose bodies have not been found.

 

Kay, who helped lower the turtle into the water, described the moment the reptile swam to freedom as "beautiful."

"This is a symbol of our four remaining lads out there," she said.

"Dianne was sent back with lots of love, and whispered messages from the families that have been to see her, but couldn't come today.

 

Skipper Ben Leahy.
Skipper Ben Leahy.

 

Adam Hoffman.
Adam Hoffman.

 

"To me, this is just beautiful: setting her free.

"She's back out in the environment where she's supposed to be."

Jodie said her brother was passionate about sea turtles, and would have loved to have been present for the release.

 

The MV Dianne at Bundaberg after it was raised from the ocean. PHOTO: Mike Knott
The MV Dianne at Bundaberg after it was raised from the ocean. PHOTO: Mike Knott

>> RELATED: Dianne raised from seabed near Town of 1770

 

"It's really special to me, that we can be out here and help with the volunteers doing such a fantastic job - and just so honoured to have the turtle named after the boys," she said.

Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-ordinator Jennie Gilbert, who knew Mr Bidner for many years, said he had helped build the turtle hospital's intensive care facilities in Portsmith.

She said having his family present for Dianne's release was a fitting tribute.

 

Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1770.
Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1770.


 

TIMELINE

October 16, 2017

MV Dianne capsizes in rough seas north of 1770.

Ruben McDornan, 32, escapes and clings to the hull.

Zac Feeney, 28, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, and Chris Sammut, 34, Ben Leahy, 45, and Adam Hoffman, 30, do not survive.

October 18

Ruben McDornan rescued by passing catamaran. He had clung to the Dianne's hull for five hours before it sunk and spent the night holding onto floating debris.

October 20

Police divers search sunken vessel, recover two bodies identified as Ben Leahy and Adam Hoffman.

October 31

Police scale back search.

February 21, 2018

Dianne is salvaged, brought ashore at Bundaberg.

July 2018

Australian Maritime Safety Authority mandates compulsory float-free EPIRBs.

October 2018

Families release Dianne the turtle back into the ocean in honour of the victims.