Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Police in Tasmania are using sonar technology to search the bottom of Bass Strait for a boat and man missing at sea last week.

Thomas Courto has not been seen or heard from since he and two friends, Bree-Anna Thomas and Isaiah Dixon, went on a boat trip from Wynyard in northwestern Tasmania at noon last Monday.

A search for the trio began later that night after they had no plans to return to shore.

The bodies of Thomas and Dixon were found washed ashore between Fossil Bluff and Table Cape, less than 10 miles west of Wynyard, on Wednesday, but Courto and the boat remain unaccounted for.

Police have searched via air, sea and also walked along the northwestern Tasmanian coast to search for the missing man, and this week they will increase the search effort.

Inspector Steve Jones said Tasmania police had hired a Devonport-based submarine surveyor who would use multi-beam sonar technology to search for the boat and the missing man.

“He has his own boat, he has all his own equipment, and he’s out on the water today,” said Inspector Jones.

Police have provided coordinates for a 325-acre “probability area” for surveyors located near Wynyard.

Inspector Jones said this was the first time Tasmanian police had used this type of sonar technology.

“This technology is available within the Tasmanian police force, but determined to have the availability and ability to search in such a large area – it’s definitely the first for us in Tasmania,” Jones said.

A composite image of three people who look like they's in their 20s.
The bodies of Bree-Anna Thomas and Isaiah Dixon have been found, but Thomas Courto (left) has not been seen for a week.(Delivered: Facebook)

‘Hope is there, but hope is certainly fading’

Police believe this is the largest land and lake survey the Northwest has conducted in recent years.

Resources from Hobart and the western districts help with the search.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority in Victoria also provided high-capacity jets and Rotary aircraft for the first two days of the search to look for evidence of the boat and the missing man on the north side of Bass Strait.

A person wearing clothes with high visibility is driving in a small rubber boat.
Several boats joined the search for the trio near Wynyard last week.(ABC News: Piia Wirsu)

Inspector Jones said police have not given up hope yet.

“Hope is there, but hope is surely fading,” Jones said.

“Of course, his family holds out hope. We just try to maintain that much contact with them and give them daily updates on what has happened and what assets we use to search.

“The family is aware [sonar] boat in the water today so they will be on the Wynyard pier and watch the boat while doing its business.


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