The search for Derrick Matthews is now a recovery mission.
The search for Derrick Matthews is now a recovery mission. Cathy Adams

Recovery mission aims to 'give closure to the family'

UPDATE, 2.30pm: SES volunteers have been out in force at Martins Bridge at Larnook, desperately searching for the body of Derrick Matthews, 72, of Billen Cliffs.

One volunteer, Neville Graham, said some of the crew members had taken time out from their jobs, while others were retired.

But all have put their lives aside to help in the rescue of someone they may have never met.

He said while the search had changed to a recovery operation, their resolve to find Mr Matthews had not changed.

"It's certainly sadder," Mr Graham said of the search.

"But it gives us more purpose to find the man, to give closure to the family."

Sixteen SES volunteers were on scene yesterday and another 12 were on scene today.

Amongst those SES members were trained water technicians, who donned wet suits and searched the banks of Leycester Creek.

They said it was tiring work in very cold water.

With the water dropping in the creek, Mr Graham said conditions were a bit safer.

"It's calmed down a bit,' he said.

"The water has dropped another 800mm (since yesterday)."


UPDATE 1pm: POLICE divers from Sydney are on their way to assist with what is now a recovery task for the body of a 72-year-old man, identified as Derrick Matthews who disappeared in floodwaters at Larnook on Wednesday.

Chief Inspector Bill McKenna said the police divers were expected to be on scene tomorrow morning.

"Our police divers are coming up from Sydney," he said.

"And if we're unsuccessful with our search today they will commence a more intrusive search of the water ways at first light tomorrow morning.

"Police divers are the specialists in this area. They will actually come in, enter the water themselves, and do a physical search of this waterway.

"We're also seeking advice from experts in regards to river flows and currents to help assist us in directing our activities."

Chief Inspector McKenna said police and SES on the ground today would be search the river itself using search poles underneath the waterway where they can.

He said they would also be conducting a visual search of the embankment and the surrounding area with the Westpac helicopter doing aerial sweeps.


SES crews in Leycester Creek searching for a missing man.
SES crews in Leycester Creek searching for a missing man. Cathy Adams

FRIDAY 11.45am: THE search for a missing 72-year-old Billen Cliffs man has officially become a recovery task for emergency services, three days after the man disappeared in floodwaters while trying to cross a submerged bridge at Larnook.

Richmond Local Area Command Chief Inspector Bill McKenna said given there had been no signs of the man since he was last seen struggling in floodwater on Wednesday, the likelihood of his survival was grim.

"In all reality, seeing as the driver has unfortunately entered the water at 3.40pm on Wednesday, the likelihood of a survival at this point in time is extremely remote," he said.

"We've done extensive searches on the banks and on the waterways to date and we've found no signs.

"That would tend to indicate that he hasn't survived once he's entered the water and he's probably submerged in the water somewhere."

Chief Inspector McKenna, who is on the scene, said emergency services resumed the search at first light this morning with police divers on standby to enter the water first thing tomorrow morning.

"Police and emergency services, which includes SES and the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter, have again returned to Martin Plains at about 8am this morning," he told The Northern Star.

"Our search is still under way, but that search has moved into a recovery phase.

"At present, police, SES and the Westpac chopper, have probably searched an area of up to 6km from where this vehicle has entered the water.

"We'll bring our resources back to where the vehicle entered the water and we'll concentrate close to that vehicle mid-morning."

SES crews meet before they begin their search for a missing man.
SES crews meet before they begin their search for a missing man. Cathy Adams