Probe says sunk trawler was unstable
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.