A Queensland sailor has died after desperately clinging to a dinghy with two friends for four days off the coast of the Philippines.
The stepdaughter of 73-year-old Anthony “Johnny” Mahoney, from Townsville in north Queensland, said the family was angry it took authorities so long to render assistance.
Mr Mahoney and friends Lionel Ansselin and Laurie Miller had sailed from north Queensland to deliver luxury yacht Katerina to the Philippines when they struck rough waters last Thursday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) confirmed it detected an alert beacon on Thursday and another on Friday, however due to the location the rescue efforts were handed over to Philippines authorities.
AMSA said the signals had come off the coast of Dinagat Island in the Philippines, near the town of Loreto.
The three men were picked up by a fishing boat on Monday morning, but Mr Mahoney had already died.
‘Your warmth touched so many’
Mr Mahoney’s son, Mark, posted a heartfelt tribute on social media to his father, who he called “an inspiration”.
“A ray of light in a sometimes dark world,” Mark Mahoney wrote.
“A passionate man who loved whole heartedly and did everything with flare and gusto.
“Your embrace was one of love. Your warmth touched so many people.”
Stepdaughter Shannon Grasso said Australian authorities had confirmed the news with Mr Mahoney’s sister on Monday morning.
“We found out that he’d actually passed away out of the three men,” she said.
“The other two were in hospital [but] unfortunately Johnny hadn’t made it.”
She said the family had been told weather conditions had not allowed authorities to search for the men earlier.
“[The three sailors] let off a beacon on the Thursday or Friday and [authorities said] that the men were missing, so that was our first knowledge about it,” Ms Grasso said.
“We were just hoping and praying that they’d made land and were just waiting for someone to come and find them — that was our hope … not to be.”
Wife died in accident three years ago
Ms Grasso said she had also lost her mother Shelley, Mr Mahoney’s wife, in a sailing accident three-and-a-half years ago.
“[The accident] involved a head injury on the water over in Malaysia — it took five hours to rescue her and it was too late,” she said.
“We do get a little frustrated and upset with rescue efforts over in those countries — [it’s] certainly not like Australia.”
She said Mr Mahoney’s passing has left a gaping hole in the family just before Christmas.
“Johnny was a pretty experienced sailor but … we expected him … home for Christmas, so we’re pretty shocked,” she said.
“He loved us like his own, which obviously is beautiful.
“He was just a very generous beautiful person, so a big gap to fill with him being gone.”
The yacht was once owned under a different name by legendary US broadcaster Walter Cronkite.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement it was assisting the family.