Jacob Lollback at the Ocean Assault Ironman final in 2008.
Jacob Lollback at the Ocean Assault Ironman final in 2008. Michaela O'Neill

Shock over surf hero's death

A GROUP of devastated friends were forced to accompany their mate's body back to Gladstone marina after a fishing trip took a tragic turn.

Gold Coast man Jacob Lollback, 20, was found dead on the ocean floor during a fishing charter trip at North West Island, 75km off the coast of Gladstone.

Mr Lollback, originally from Grafton, was a rising surf-lifesaving star and elite triathlete.

He and 12 friends had been half-way through a five-day fishing charter, when he and two other passengers went spear fishing and snorkelling at North West Island, at 7.50am on Tuesday.

A search was launched when Mr Lollback failed to return to a dingy at 11am, and he was located on the sea floor.

He was returned to the vessel and CPR was given without success.

The vessel returned to the Gladstone Marina and Mr Lollback was pronounced dead at the Gladstone Hospital.

The charter boat is operated by Gladstone-based Australiana Charters, however a spokesman for the company did not wish to comment yesterday.

“It's under investigation so we'll have to leave it at that,” the spokesman told The Observer.

Gladstone Detective Sergeant Allan Cook said Mr Lollback's death was not believed to be suspicious, but it was a “complicated” investigation.

Police, Workplace Health and Safety and the coroner were all involved in the investigation, he said.

Lollback's traumatised friends were “not good” after the incident, he said.

Seventeen people, including four staff, were on board the charter boat.

All passengers and crew have since been interviewed by police.

Mr Lollback's immediate family were on their way to Gladstone, he said.

“They are in shock, grieving,” Det Cook said.

Mr Lollback's uncle, Neville Lollback said yesterday the family was desperate for answers.

“At 20 years of age it's so wrong,” Mr Lollback said.

“He had everything, the talent, the looks and yet he took it all in his stride.”

The Lollback clan had gathered at the family home in Grafton, as they tried to come to terms with the death, he said.

Another family friend, and one of Jacob's surf life saving coaches Jim Dougherty said he was like an “extra son”.

Mr Dougherty said Jacob had only recently been talking to him about the dive trip.

“Diving and spear fishing were a real passion for him,” he said.

Mr Dougherty spoke of a spirited young man with a bright future.

“He could be a bit of a larrikin, but a loveable larrikin. Everyone liked him,” he said.

Mr Lollback said the family expected to hold a funeral for Jacob mid next week.

Meanwhile, Det Cook said it was too early to say whether any charges would be laid over the death.

An autopsy was likely to be carried out on Mr Lollback's body yesterday, with the results forwarded on to the coroner.

The Yeppoon Water Police were at the scene, searching for Mr Lollback's dive equipment.

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