THE body of a foreign national was found by officers from the Hervey Bay Water Police on Saturday night after the 29-year-old man got into difficulties while swimming at Elliott Heads during the day.
An air and sea search including the RACQ CareFlight helicopter, two Surf Life Saving Queensland RIBs, private boats and a jet ski got under way about noon after the man and a group of friends tried to cross the river about 500m from the river mouth.
The rescue helicopter crew conducted searches over the ocean and coastline looking for the Asian man without success before his body was found about 9.50pm.
Surf Life Saving Queensland Wide Bay Capricorn regional manager Craig Holden said the tragic incident happened quickly and it appeared the man and his friends had limited or even no swimming ability.
"It appears he tried to make it across the river to the island and as soon as the water became too deep to stand, he disappeared very quickly - it happened very suddenly," he said.
Mr Holden said the murky water meant there was limited visibility for those involved with the search.
"There was a strong wind and it was choppy. It wasn't ideal for searching," he said.
Mr Holden said the Elliott River was a lot safer than it had been in previous years and, unless the man had decided not to cross the river in the first place, there was very little which would have changed the sad ending.
"Unless there was a life guard right beside the man (when he went in), I don't think anything would have prevented this outcome," he said.
"Generally we see more incidents with an outgoing tide, but it was an incoming tide."
Mr Holden said the tragic accident was a harsh reminder for people to swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
"It's a tragedy and not the way we wanted to start the summer," he said.
"I hope if nothing else people learn from this, consider their own ability and take responsibility for their actions."
Mr Holden said warning signs were clearly visible in the area.
Police will prepare a report for the coroner.