NEAR a white cross surrounded by freshly-laid flowers, Chase Winterton laughs as he happily kicks his soccer ball around the crowd.

The two-year-old boy is unsure why his dad Joel is not there and oblivious to the 300 people crying around him.

Behind the few happy children dotted in a sea of sadness, the muddy Mary River is flowing quickly.

While fishing at the Lamington Bridge boat ramp Joel Winterton drowned on Wednesday morning after suffering an epileptic seizure.

RELATED: WATCH: Crews continue search, friends share messages of hope

As dusk arrived on Wednesday evening the search and rescue effort became a search and recovery retrieval.

Agonising hours would pass until Joel's brother finds him at 11.25pm on Thursday night near where he had fallen in.

Yesterday family, friends, emergency services and strangers met near the ramp to pay their respects to the 25-year-old man.

In front of a cross bearing her son's name, Sandi Hoolahan remembered how she came to care for Joel.

Spending nights on the street, Joel was noticed by police officer Jamie Hoolahan, who invited him to come around for dinner whenever he needed it.

"He asked if we had a bed for him; of course we did," Sandi told the crowd while fighting back tears.

"He stayed one night, then another night and another night.

"Joel didn't have a heart of gold, he was made of gold."

 

From Wednesday last week Joel's family and friends held a vigil at the Mary River while police, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and the SES scoured waters.

While waiting by the river hoping he was alive but knowing he was not, Joel's family watched the tide swiftly come in and out several times.

Strangers bought them food, drinks and as of last night more than 220 people raised more than $10,000 for Joel's funeral.

"I want to thank the town for what you have done when we needed people," Sandi told the crowd.

At the memorial service yesterday the crowd dropped flowers at the same location Joel took his last breath.

Kayla Hockhing should have been the only person giving her boyfriend flowers on Valentine's Day.

Instead she was one of hundreds of people, placing them on the grass near the bridge amongst a pile of others.

More details of Joel's final moments have also emerged.

Fishing with Joel on the pontoon, a close friend noticed his eyes had widened and Joel was not looking right.

Joel's friend told him to sit against the pile and gave him water.

A few moments later Joel moved back to the water's edge to continue fishing.

Then, after casting his line, Joel's close mate heard a single large splash.

Joel had disappeared.

Dropping everything and diving in; Joel's mate grabbed his arm but was not able to pull him up.

 

About 300 family, friends, emergency services and strangers met near the Lamington Bridge ramp to pay their respects to Joel.
About 300 family, friends, emergency services and strangers met near the Lamington Bridge ramp to pay their respects to Joel. Hayden Johnson

From Wednesday last week Joel's family and friends held a vigil at the Mary River while police divers and the SES scoured waters.

Hoping he was alive but knowing he was not, Joel's family watched the tide come in and out several times waiting by the river

Strangers bought them food, drinks and as of Sunday morning more than 220 peopled raised more than $10,000 for Joel's funeral.

"I want to thank the town for what you have done when we needed people," Sandi told the gathered crowd.

THE INCIDENT

  • Wednesday, 9.15am: Joel suffers a seizure and falls into the river
  • Emergency crews spend the day searching the water but find no trace
  • Joel is found dead on the bank of the river about 11.30pm on Thursday night


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