DESPITE waking for his usual early morning start, self-employed carpenter Douglas Elliott has not been able to bring himself to go to work for the past two weeks.
After checking the night before for the peak of the high tide, Elliott has left his Forresters Beach home on the Central Coast before sunrise and driven 35 minutes to Frazer Park to start the daily search for his nephew Trey Adamson and Adamson’s friend Ben Winn, who are feared drowned.
Eighteen-year-old Adamson, of Gateshead, and Winn, 20, of Windale, were last seen on Friday, June 15, and were believed to have gone fishing the following day with Adamson’s girlfriend, Niranda ‘‘Randz’’ Blair, 18, at Flat Rock at the northern end of Ghosties Beach in the Munmorah State Conservation Area.
Blair’s body was found on Ghosties Beach on June 17 and the life of the Edgeworth teen was celebrated at the chapel of Lake Macquarie Memorial Park on Wednesday.
The men remain missing.
Elliott has scoured the coastline from dawn to dusk every day since their disappearance, searching for some sign of the pair.
‘‘Your body sort of kicks you out of bed and makes you go and look,’’ he told H2 Review on Tuesday.
‘‘We just want to find them.’’
For the first four days he was joined by his sister and Adamson’s mother, Tracey, and a team of family members and friends on the walk from Wybung Head to Catherine Hill Bay and back.
Every day since then he has driven to Frazer Park by about 7am and walked along Frazer Park beach, before driving to Snapper Point to survey the cove.
He meets family, friends and supporters at Catherine Hill Bay and they walk to Flat Rock.
Elliott’s pregnant wife Jill has also joined the search in between taking care of their two children.
The group spends the rest of the day at the Catherine Hill Bay site where Blair’s car was found.
‘‘How do you stop searching for someone?’’ Elliott said of his unrelenting persistence in the face of financial strain. ‘‘How do you pack up and go to work the next day?
‘‘I can’t go to work, you can’t think. Your brain just stops.
‘‘I’d do anything to find them.’’
Members of Winn’s family have also kept a vigil by the water and spent most of their waking hours scanning the beaches.
Winn’s sister, Amanda Mackenzie-Kludas, has been accompanied by her husband Saul and their seven-month-old son Bodhi.
‘‘We’re being really safe but just looking for things other people wouldn’t recognise [as theirs],’’ Mackenzie-Kludas told the Herald on June 18.
Elliott said he had been overwhelmed by the generosity towards the men’s families from the community, who had helped in the search and cooked food on barbecues to line stomachs.
‘‘I’m a spokesman for my family but this affects a lot of people [in Adamson and Winn’s families], not just me,’’ he said.
‘‘On behalf of our entire family we thank immensely everybody who has been involved in the effort so far.’’
Members of the Windale Eagles rugby league club presented Elliott on Sunday with almost $1400 they had collected, to be put towards food and drinks for those who continue to scan the area.
But unfortunately this doesn’t numb the pain of a fruitless search.
Police found two pairs of shoes and a pair of ugg boots 25 metres from the water’s edge at Flat Rock and a jacket, tackle box and packet of cigarettes on a nearby rock shelf.
But after 14 agonising days, any rods, buckets of bait and Adamson’s hat and backpack, which Elliott said he always wore when fishing, have not been found.
Wyong inspector Keith Ross said police were investigating circumstances leading up to the incident.
He said one explanation for the lack of retrieved belongings could be that the trio had not taken with them any other equipment apart from what had already been found.
But Elliott said this was unlikely.
He does not suggest anything suspicious happened to the men.
He said it was likely the trio had gone fishing together and tragically fallen into the ocean.
But the lack of belongings has left the family with unanswered questions and wandering minds.
The only established link between the men and the beach was the discovery of their shoes.
‘‘It’s like they’ve been teleported away with no information, so at the moment we’re thinking ‘why haven’t we found something?’’’ he said.
‘‘I’m not a detective but there’s just big parts of the jigsaw missing.
‘‘It’s almost hard to get upset, you feel guilty for grieving because there is nothing to grieve for.’’
Elliott said the experienced and enthusiastic anglers were strong swimmers and would have taken every precaution.
He said they would not have fished in the dark on Friday night.
The families hope someone will come forward with information or sightings of the trio, to fill in some of the blanks.
Elliott said no one had reported seeing the group get out of Blair’s car, walk to the beach, or on the rock itself.
Elliott said there were about 50 people on the beach over the past sunny weekend, from fishermen to surfers, swimmers and walkers.
‘‘Someone must have seen something,’’ he said.
‘‘On weekends that place is like a hot chip shop, there are people in and out, in and out.
‘‘I can’t accept the fact that nobody’s seen them.’’
‘‘That’s why we want someone to say ‘yes, we saw them with gear’ or ‘we saw someone take it’. We’re not asking for people to give their stuff back, we just want to know what they had.’’
Elliott said the inseparable Adamson and Blair kept their equipment in Blair’s car, where rods were often seen poking out the windows.
Elliott said he had encouraged his nephew – who was like a younger brother to him, and was in year 11 at Hunter Sports High School – to consider working for him as a carpenter.
‘‘It just shows how close him and Niranda were, he came and stayed here for a while in his last holidays to work with me and Niranda was here too, every day,’’ he said.
‘‘She was very well liked, everyone loved her.’’
Elliott has vowed to continue the search, regardless of the difficulties.
‘‘As time passes on, hope fades, but we don’t even know what we’re looking for any more, that’s the hard part,’’ he said.
‘‘Are we looking for Trey, Ben, their fishing rods or their backpacks?
‘‘You just go down there hoping there’s something.
‘‘I’ve said it a million times but I wish rocks could tell stories, because the rock knows exactly what happened.’’