Queensland Police say they've found the body of missing jockey Chris Caserta, 36 hours after he disappeared during a late-night swim at a Gold Coast beach.
Police say the 26-year-old's body was found floating about 200m offshore near a sand dredging jetty at Main Beach on Friday morning.
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"It is believed to be the body of Chris Caserta, however a formal identification is yet to be completed," a police spokesperson told AAP.
"Once that happens we will prepare a report for the coroner."
Surf lifesavers have recovered the body of missing jockey Chris Caserta. Volunteers located his body about 200m offshore from Main Beach at 08:30 this morning. Mr Caserta was last seen entering the water at Surfers Paradise on Wednesday night, when he failed to come to shore. pic.twitter.com/wzsfHxZLCE
— Kimberley Bernard (@kimberleybrnrd) December 3, 2021
The Victorian Jockeys Association CEO Matthew Hyland told AAP Mr Caserta's family has been told by police that his body has been found.
A frantic search and rescue operation was launched when Caserta couldn't be located following a swim at a Gold Coast beach around 10pm on Wednesday night.
On Thursday afternoon, Gold Coast Water Police and Search Commander Senior Sergeant Jay Notaro made the devastating admission that the time frame for Caserta's survival had elapsed.
Search efforts stretched from as far as South Stradbroke Island to Burleigh Heads.
"It is an absolute tragedy at any time, but particularly just before Christmas," Sen Sgt Notatro said on Thursday.
"On behalf of the Queensland Police Service, I'd like to pass on our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues in the racing industry."
Caserta disappeared after going swimming with 25-year-old apprentice jockey Amy Graham at the beach off the Esplanade in Surfers Paradise.
Onlookers saw the couple struggling in the water and were able to help Ms Graham to the shore.
Search and rescue efforts for well-renowned jockey Chris Caserta have turned into a recovery mission, after the 26-year-old went missing while swimming with a colleague last night. @9JesseBurns #9News pic.twitter.com/GiFVpxcIf3
— 9News Gold Coast (@9NewsGoldCoast) December 2, 2021
“I thought I was going to die, I tried my best to save him, keep him calm and breathe without struggling myself," Graham has since revealed.
"But we just kept getting dunked over and over and over again. It happened so fast, we just got dragged out.
“We didn’t even go that far but the ocean took us out … I didn’t even want to go in but I couldn’t let him go in alone.”
Graham said she and Caserta had gone to dinner in Surfers Paradise when the popular jockey wanted to go for a swim.
“He had dinner and two drinks and he wanted to go for a swim,” Graham’s boss, trainer John Zielke told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
“Amy is doing it pretty tough at the moment.”
Tributes flow for Chris Caserta
The LifeFight chopper was deployed, tasked by the Queensland Police Service on Wednesday evening to help scour the coastline.
Surf Lifesaving Queensland, Gold Coast City Council, volunteer marine rescue, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and South Stradbroke Island Park Ranger also assisted in the search.
Minister for Education and Racing Grace Grace extended her condolences to Mr Caserta's family in parliament on Thursday.
"My thoughts are also with the family and friends of jockey Chris Caserta, who is currently missing after a late-night swim at Surfers Paradise," she said.
"I can only imagine what Chris' family and friends are going through."
Sen Sgt Notaro added it's a timely reminder to swim on patrolled beaches during monitored hours.
"By not doing so, you're putting your own life at risk and also putting the lives at risk of those people who try and rescue you," he said.
A well-respected jockey in the Australian racing industry, Caserta most recently rode at Grafton on Sunday.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media.
Chris Caserta was one of the few totally legitimate and honest people that you find in racing. His work ethic and skills were proven by riding for some of the highest trainers in Australia. His latest socials showed he was more dedicated to the sport more than ever. A great loss.
— Nathan Rose (@TappyRose) December 2, 2021
We join the entire racing fraternity in sending our thoughts to Chris Caserta’s loved ones 💖 pic.twitter.com/hIrZLevK2U
— Racing SA (@RacingSA) December 2, 2021
Such heartbreaking news about such a popular jockey, Chris Caserta. My heart goes out to his family, friends, fellow jockeys and all who knew and admired him. Such a lovely person who always worked so hard and had time for everyone. pic.twitter.com/YN07sdyEQP
— SHARON CHAPMAN (@FastTrackPhotog) December 2, 2021
Terrible news regarding Chris Caserta. There will be a lot of people hurting today that knew and loved him. Anyone in the industry looking to talk to someone, there is help out there. 💔
Stableline - 1300 520 122
Behind The Barriers - 1300 438 435
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
— Maggie Payne (@maggiepayne_) December 1, 2021
I’m going to miss you little bro 💙🙏🏼 Thank you for all of the amazing memories and laughs we shared. You touched every single person you met along the way 💔 pic.twitter.com/2QclEjn8Fw
— Stacey Rawiller (@SRawiller) December 2, 2021
— Michael McGuane (@MickMCG34) December 2, 2021
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