Probe says sunk trawler was un­sta­ble

Midwest Times - - NEWS - Tim Clarke

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sink­ing of prawn trawler Re­turner, which took the lives of skip­per Mur­ray Turner and deck­hands Chad Fair­ley and Ma­son Carter, dis­cov­ered the boat had been ren­dered un­sta­ble by the re­moval of more than two tonnes of bal­last dur­ing re­fur­bish­ments.

The in­quest into the sink­ing off WA’s north-west coast in July 2015 be­gan on Monday, and will look into cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the sink­ing of the 13m boat.

Coro­ner Sarah Lin­ton heard the ves­sel prob­a­bly sank dur­ing a 14-minute win­dow in the early hours of Satur­day, July 11, be­tween a fi­nal text message sent by Chad to his brother Kane and the last com­mu­ni­ca­tion sent to the on-land track­ers that mon­i­tor ves­sel move­ments.

It emerged that the Depart­ment of Fish­eries did not reg­is­ter the dis­ap­pear­ance of the ves­sel un­til the Monday morn­ing, July 13, when staff re­turned to work and noted the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Even then, WA Po­lice were not told of the miss­ing ves­sel un­til two days af­ter that, by which time the in­quest was told the sur­vival chances of any on­board would have been min­i­mal.

An ex­ten­sive search found the ves­sel sunk in 10m of wa­ter a short dis­tance from where it was last lo­cated, with Mr Turner’s body found in the ac­com­mo­da­tion quar­ters of the boat. The bod­ies of Mr Fair­ley and Mr Carter have not been found.

On Monday, it was also re­vealed that af­ter buy­ing the boat months ear­lier, Mr Turner had un­der­taken ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions, in­clud­ing fit­ting a new brine tank and pro­pel­ler to the boat.

But in do­ing so, he had also re­moved 2600kg of bal­last from the boat. A Depart­ment of Trans­port sur­vey of the boat passed it as fit for fish­ing.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

The Re­turner.

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