‘We’re hitting the centre of the typhoon’: missing man’s final words
AN Australian stockman missing at sea told his girlfriend he took comfort knowing there was "a caring soul looking out for me" just before the livestock ship overturned in rough seas off Japan.
William Mainprize, who moved to Tasmania from NSW in 2017, is one of two Australians missing after the Gulf Livestock 1 capsized and sank amid a powerful typhoon last week.
The text messages from the 27-year-old to his girlfriend Charlie Gray, reveal the panicked final moments as the ship began to sink.
"Morning Charlie. Thanks for your warm thoughts, it makes such a difference knowing there is a caring soul looking out for me," he wrote.
"5am here. Very interrupted sleep getting bashed around all night. But I was fast asleep by 7pm so definitely got my hours in.
"Drinking my tea and thinking of how wonderful you are."
In another message Mr Mainprize captures an eerie image of the sea saying "calm before the storm", followed by dramatic footage showing the water rapidly filling the ship.
Mr Mainprize was working as a stockman on the Gulf Livestock 1, which left New Zealand in mid-August to carry 5,800 dairy cattle to China's eastern coast.
On Sept. 2, the ship sent a distress signal from the East China Sea as a typhoon passed the area.
The first survivor rescued from the ship told Coast Guard officials that the boat stalled when an engine stopped, then capsized after being hit broadside by a powerful wave and finally sank. Two survivors have been rescued so far and the body of a third crew member was recovered.
The total crew included 39 people from the Philippines, two from New Zealand and two from Australia. The body of the crew member who died has not been identified.
His final message would be a video of the vessel being hit by the waves, where Mr Mainprize can be heard saying, "pretty wild weather".
In the lead up to the disaster, Ms Gray said Mr Mainprize had warned her about the "weather getting worse" but still tried to "remain calm and upbeat".
"That's the type of person Will is. He is very clear minded and positive, but also very smart and alert," she said.
"His messages were all over the place from really intended to really casual and beautiful, but I would like to think he was working to keep myself and family and friends calm.
"But also trying to have control over his emotions and stay positive as he knew the situation was getting worse."
Ms Gray said while she is "very appreciative" of the Japanese Coast Guard's efforts to search for survivors, she feels "left in the dark" as there has been little communication about the Australian government's offers of assistance.
"We are pretty desperate for the search to expand and don't really have a lot of clarity as to the kind of support that's being offered to Japan by the Australian and New Zealand government," she said.
"But at the same time we are being grateful for the efforts so far. There are just a lot of complicated feelings …. I take it hour by hour."
Despite being stranded in hotel quarantine in Sydney until September 24, Ms Gray said she has been supported by the government and family of Mr Mainprize during the ordeal.
"It's hard being at the hotel. My focus is on getting the crew home," she said.
"While it is difficult, at the same time I'm putting my energy as much a s possible to find ways to expand the search and rescue."
On Wednesday, the Japan Coast Guard officially scaled down their search to regular patrols.
The wife of veterinarian Lukas Orda, made a heartfelt plea for her husband to come home. Emma Orda, who recently welcomed their baby boy, Theo, said he now faces the prospect of "never knowing his father".
"The current situation is tremendously overwhelming; however, I am not alone in this as there are 39 other families feeling the heart-wrenching pain this tragedy is causing," she said.
"I beg you to help us to keep the search going, so that this nightmare can end for all of us. "Until we find them, I won't be able to answer him why he has to grow up without his dad. It is questions like this that will haunt me and all the other affected families forever."
Friends and family of Mr Mainprize have launched a change.org petition calling on the search to expand and for the Australian and New Zealand government to offer assistance, with more than 39,500 signatures gathered.
Originally published as 'We're hitting the centre of the typhoon': missing man's final words