A WELL-KNOWN Charters Towers district cattleman has died after coming off his horse in the Burdekin River.
Peter Costello, 62, of Fanning Downs, got into trouble as he was crossing the river on his property at Ravenswood about 2pm on Monday.
He came off the horse and failed to resurface, prompting a major recovery effort.
Police divers located his body in the river about 1km south of the railway bridge on Fanning Downs Road this afternoon following an extensive search.
Mr Costello and his wife Judi are well known in the district, regularly attending major bull sales.
Townsville Police Inspector Damian Irvine said it appeared a freak accident had claimed the life of the experienced cattleman.
"The property owner and his wife... he's a 62-year-old gentleman that's lived here most of his life, they've been on horseback and they've gone down to the river on their property with a third horse on a rope behind them," Insp Irvine said.
"They've crossed the river with the intent to go to property on the other side.
"Halfway across... both horses have stepped into deep water and started to get in trouble.
"The wife has seen the missing person disappear with the horse under water and the horse has come back up but unfortunately he hasn't."
Insp Irvine said family members and workers on the property immediately began to search.
They were joined by local police and swift water rescue crews, who searched until last light.
Ms Costello's body was recovered this afternoon.
Insp Irvine said the river appeared idyllic, with no fast running water, but said it was likely the recent flooding may have changed the depths.
He said the river was up to five metres deep in some areas, and it was likely Mr Costello had been dragged down by the weight of his boots and clothing.
"These people have been on this property for many years so they certainly know the area," Insp Irvine said.
"It's just a freak accident, I'm sure the gentleman and his wife have done what they did 100 times over."
Charters Towers Mayor Liz Schmidt extended her condolences to the family on behalf of the community.
"I've known Peter and Judi for many decades and I'm devastated for the family and for the entire community," Cr Schmidt said.
"It's devastating, he was a really nice fellow and did so much for the community.
"He may not have always been politically correct, but he was always willing to share his knowledge, and it's a very sad loss for the community as a whole."