Townsville’s officer in charge of child protection Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles extended condolences to the family and said police officers who found the boys were visibly affected by the discovery.
The boys were found close to one another in a small cutaway area of the river after an extensive land, air and water search.
“Please help Townsville,” the boys’ mother had posted on Facebook on Monday night, asking friends and family to help police search.
“Please, if you live near a park or driving past it take time to have a look, they will be cold, hungry and tired now. Mum is missing you boys so, so much,” she wrote.
At least 100 people, including police, SES and firefighters, made up the search party.
A woman who helped search for five hours wrote about the community’s efforts to find the children on Facebook.
“Like the many people we met last night, everyone just hoped the boys had huddled up somewhere together for the night to wait for daylight,” she posted.
“We yelled out their names through the tall grasses and the trees saying it was OK, it’s time to come out, your mum wants to see you both. To say I feel devastated for the family is an understatement.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the hearts of all Queenslanders went out to the family after the “unimaginable loss”.
“In the last month, the people of Townsville have had to endure a lot of heartache and wrenching despair and now they must endure more,” she said.
“When an amber alert was issued, the people of Townsville do what they always do, they banded together to look after their own.
“They spent the night searching regardless of their own personal hardships after the floods.”
Townsville’s deputy mayor Les Walker said the news sent “shockwaves” through the community already coping with the aftermath of disastrous floods this month.
“It is just horrific to wake up and find out two little boys are dead,” he said. “It is a tragedy.”
Support will be offered to students of the nearby Cranbrook State School, which the five-year-old boy attended.
– with Felicity Caldwell
Lydia Lynch is a reporter for the Brisbane Times