Jet skiers launch search to ‘bring Tony home’
EXPERIENCED jet skiers from across the southeast plan to embark on an informal mission off the Gold Coast and Tweed to find a Labrador man who's been missing since last Sunday.
Jet ski racing photographer Jeff Lakeford began rustling up support for the Saturday search on Friday, posting his plan to the popular Facebook page Jetski Riders Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Mr Lakeford posted a photo of missing man Anthony 'Tony' Schilperoort, 54, beside a jet ski with a simple message: "Bring Tony Home".
Police scaled back an extensive air and sea search for semi-retired electrician Mr Schilperoort on New Year's Eve after his jet ski was discovered floating in the Coral Sea off Southport last Sunday, December 29.
The keen fisherman's personal belongings were still on the jet ski, which did not have any visible damage.
His vehicle and trailer were found at Muriel Henchman Dr car park, Main Beach.
Mr Lakeford has called on jet ski racers or recreational riders with ocean riding experience to help scour the coast.
"I can't sit by without making an effort to find a fellow missing avid jetskier," he wrote.
"I'm sure everyone has heard about this and has felt some sadness for the family involved.
"I understand it's most likely a recovery search now rather than a rescue and if it were me I know my loved ones would desperately be seeking peace.
"I don't know the family of Tony Schilperoort, but I wish them only the best in this terrible time they must be enduring."
Mr Lakeford said his plan was to do a sweep from the Southport seaway to Tweed Heads return and that only experienced riders should join.
He advised riders to bring "all safety gear" including EPIRBS, water, sunscreen, hats and polarised sunglasses, if possible, "to cut out the glare".
"If you can help volunteer your time to help me on this search it will be very much appreciated," he wrote, adding that he would be leaving The Spit at 8am.
Mr Lakeford was gathering the names and phone numbers of those who wished to be involved, as well as jet ski registration numbers, to pass on to Gold Coast Water Police.
Several dozen commenters said they would be involved, or offered their support.
Anyone with information which may assist police should phone Policelink on 131 444.
Mr Lakeford has been contacted for comment.