Possible liferaft sighting as search for South African yachtsmen continues

Cape Argus. By Henrid du Plessis.

Cape Town – The families of three South African men who are lost at sea after setting sail from Cape Town on a luxury catamaran yacht for Thailand on December 14 have been given new cause for hope after a crowd search of satellite images appeared to have come up with a possible lead.

Anthony Murray, 58, Reginald Robertson, 59, and Jaryd Payne, 20, were last heard of on January 18 when the men called family and friends by satellite telephone. At that point the trio were 2 190 nautical miles north-north-west of Perth in Australia.

The yacht should have arrived at Phuket on February 2. It is believed the men had only enough food aboard to last until February 26.

As soon as the families realised their relatives were missing, they set up an international crowd search through the TomNod satellite image search service of the US.

On Tuesday, something significant was found by a large number of the 29 000 people taking part in the online satellite image search. In the latest area identified as a probable search area by experts employed by the Australian Search and Rescue organisation, people spotted a shape not unlike that of a life raft with its door open.

“Our men have not been found,” stressed Diane Coetzer, Anthony Murray’s sister-in-law. “What has happened is that volunteer searchers n the TomNod network have spotted an encouraging feature in the water in a part of the identified search area.

“The Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre has brought in experts to determine a second search area after the first showed up nothing, and on Tuesday, a number of people spotted an object in the water that could be a life raft.” 

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