While the search for two missing Willunga fishermen in waters off Cape Jervis was called off yesterday morning (Wednesday, February 19), family members are clinging to hope the men are alive.
After more than two days of searching, the men and their 4.6 metre half cabin boat had not been found. A helicopter carried out a final coastal search on Wednesday.
Prominent olive oil producer Vince Scarfo, 44, and his brother-inlaw Luigi Palombo, 48, were reported missing by their wives at 10pm on Sunday, February 16, two hours after they were due to return home.
The men had not been heard from or seen since 10.30am on Sunday, when they set off. SA Police Superintendent Les Buckley who coordinated the search said items recovered in waters during the search on Tuesday were consistent with their boat sinking.
A life-jacket, fuel cylinder, esky, bucket, torch and a piece of foam along with smaller articles were among the items found. Vince Scarfo, a second generation olive grower, launched Diana Olive Oil in 1989. His business based in Willunga encompasses the crushing, packaging and distribution of Diana Olive Oil along with crushing services for local olive growers.
Luigi is the cousin of Vicki Vasarelli, owner of McLaren Vale’s Vasarelli Cellar Door Restaurant. On Wednesday, Vicki said the family still clings to hope the Luigi and Vince are alive. She said both men are well respected and loved members of the Fleurieu community.
Inspector Gus Sickerdick, from Hills Fleurieu Police, said it was a tough decision for police to call off the search.
"It is a decision based on the weather conditions, the area searched and expert advice. We have also been liaising with the families of these men,” he said.
“While the sea and rescue search is over, the police investigation is not and I would urge any boaters in the area who find anything on the water or shoreline which may be related to this incident to call police.”
On Monday, the first day of the search, Inspector Sickerdick said the men were familiar with the waters and had been fishing in the area on Saturday. He said their boat carried all safety equipment, including life jackets, flares and an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
Two boats from the Police Water Operations began searching the waters between Kangaroo Island and Cape Jervis on Monday morning. They received assistance from sea rescue boats from Victor Harbor, Wirrina and Kangaroo Island, surf life saving vessels, private boat operators and had air support from two helicopters and two fixed wing aircrafts.
Inspector Sickerdick thanked the volunteers involved, and said more than 2500 square-nautical miles were searched during the operation.
Victor Harbor Goolwa Sea Rescue Squadron had a large involvement in the search. Squadron leader Mike Westley said about 30 people and six boats from Victor Harbor Goolwa Sea Rescue were a part of the operation. They were called for their assistance first thing on Monday morning and over the two days were on the water for more than 20 hours.
Mr Westley said the squadron was working in conjunction with police to carry out the search, which had its command centre based at Wirrina. On Monday the squadron was part of the search, south south-east of Pages Island and on Tuesday between Wirrina and Tunkalilla Bay.
He said the squadron members had located a number of items in the water, which were confirmed to have come from the missing boat.