Missing fishermen Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson found alive and well after days lost at sea

Relief: Ashley, Tim, Ian and Matt at the Bluff Boat Ramp eagerly awaiting the safe return of brother, father and friend Derek Robinson. Photo: Michael Simmons.
Relief: Ashley, Tim, Ian and Matt at the Bluff Boat Ramp eagerly awaiting the safe return of brother, father and friend Derek Robinson. Photo: Michael Simmons.

Update: Family speaks

The family and friends of Derek Robinson have spoken to The Times from the Bluff Boat Ramp as they eagerly await the fisherman's safe return.

Brother Ian Robinson said he never had any doubt that his brother would make it back safe.

"We knew he was coming home, we never gave up, he is a survivor and there was never a doubt in my mind," Mr Robinson said.

Son's Ashley and Tim were both present at the boat ramp awaiting the safe return of their father, and were overjoyed at the news.

"We are very happy for him to be back alive and well," Ashley said.

"It has been a very up and down time, we haven't known what to think, we were especially disappointed when the search was called off, but we have always been positive.

"We always had hope and you never give up until there is proof otherwise."

Ian wanted to thank everyone involved in the search and rescue.

"A big thank you," he said.

Derek's best mate Matt Bentley agreed with the families' sentiments and said he was always positive that Derek would make it back to his family and friends.

Alive: Goolwa fishermen Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson contacted police early this morning and are believed to be in good spirits. Photo: Supplied.

Alive: Goolwa fishermen Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson contacted police early this morning and are believed to be in good spirits. Photo: Supplied.

Missing fisherman alive and well

Friends of Goolwa fishermen Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson say it is "an absolute miracle" the pair are safe and well, four days after they were reported missing in waters south of Port Lincoln.

At 7am on Thursday, South Australian Police confirmed the two men had made contact with them.

Tony Higgins and Derek Robinson, 57 and 48, were stranded at Salt Creek, more than 200km from their destination of Goolwa.

The men initially left Coffin Bay in a 30-foot wooden hulled fishing boat bound for Goolwa about 3pm on Thursday, September 3.

They reported engine trouble to a friend about 11pm on Friday, September 4, and advised they were going to divert to Kangaroo Island.

When no word had been heard from the men, the friend raised the alarm on Sunday, and a massive search was launched.

With the assistance of aircraft from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Royal Australian Air Force and Kangaroo Island and Volunteer Marine Rescue the total search area covered more than 103,000 square kilometres.

At about 10.20pm on Wednesday evening, shortly an aerial search had been called off, the men made contact with police.

Police worked with other rescue services overnight to determine the exact location of the boat.

A miracle: Friends of Tony Higgins, Mitch Crowhurst and Robert Dorrough await his safe return at Goolwa Wharf, early Wednesday morning. Photo: Jack Manning.

A miracle: Friends of Tony Higgins, Mitch Crowhurst and Robert Dorrough await his safe return at Goolwa Wharf, early Wednesday morning. Photo: Jack Manning.

Water Operations Units headed out to the south east coast and have picked up the men, and were plannin on towing the boat to Goolwa but are now bound for Victor Harbor.

Mitch Crowhurst, who had driven the two men to Coffin Bay so they could pick up the boat, was waiting at Goolwa Wharf on Thursday morning once he had heard the news.

"I'm especially glad they're still alive. I drove them out there to buy the boat to pick it up so they could bring it home and fix it up, and they're still going to get to do that," he said.

He said as more time had passed since the men were last heard from, he was losing hope, but now he could not be more excited.

"My heart was getting heavy, I was fending off the doubts that were coming into my mind, and hoping for a good outcome and we got it, so I'm thankful," he said.

"We've been praying for them and hoping for a miracle, and that miracle's come to fruition.

"It's amazing that they're still floating along now and they made it all that way. We're just so grateful."

Friend Robert Dorrough was also at Goolwa Wharf to welcome the men home.

"An absolute miracle, I couldn't believe my ears," he said.

"It was just so overwhelming to get the news that they were safe and sound.

"It was so heart rendering to think we might have lost him, but now he's back again - we're so grateful.

He said Tony went to church with him occasionally, and Robert thanked God for the positive result.

We prayed for him both Sunday at the service and Monday night at the church service we had," he said.

"I was just so overwhelmed, so thankful to God."