Ap­pari­tion haunts griev­ing dad

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Daniel Mercer

The im­age has been haunting Barry Carter ever since he saw it four weeks ago.

Sleep de­prived and des­per­ate af­ter search­ing for days through rugged ter­rain in the Pil­bara to find any signs of his miss­ing son Ma­son, it came to him like an ap­pari­tion.

“I lay down and as soon as I shut my eyes ... he came to me right in my face, right in the cen­tre of my face,” Mr Carter said.

“And I knew what he was go­ing to say.

“I was just look­ing at him and he went, ‘Dad, you’re go­ing to have to let me go’.”

It has been al­most two months since the prawn trawler Ma­son was aboard sank off the Pil­bara, and the an­guish of the loss is etched deep into his face.

A beloved son to Mr Carter and his for­mer wife Brigitte, Ma­son was also the in­spi­ra­tional old­est brother to four sib­lings — Codie, Liam, Jesse and Char­lotte.

With so many ques­tions about his dis­ap­pear­ance unan­swered, Mr and Mrs Carter this week spoke from Kal­barri about their tor­ment and the ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to which the fam­ily has gone to find him.

From jet­skis, he­li­copters and boats to four-wheel-driv­ing across jagged rocks and crawl­ing through man­groves, they have pushed the lim­its of their en­durance “to find some­thing, even a pair of board­ies”.

But as weeks with­out a trace turn into months, the hopes of find­ing him fade.

“We prob­a­bly knew that we weren’t go­ing to find any­thing, but deep down there was a part of us that didn’t want to leave him there alone,” Mr Carter said.

That Mr and Mrs Carter went to such lengths to look for their son rests as much on their faith in his abil­ity to sur­vive as it does on their love for him.

At 26, Ma­son was a noted big­wave surfer and an “ex­em­plary” boat op­er­a­tor part-way through ad­vanced nau­ti­cal train­ing.

He was also, as his par­ents noted, a skilled bush­man at the peak of his con­sid­er­able phys­i­cal pow­ers.

“It wasn’t un­think­able,” Mrs Carter says.

Af­ter set­ting off in early July on a 10-day trip from Point Sam­son, north-east of Kar­ratha, the boat Ma­son was aboard with his child­hood friend Chad Fair­ley and skip­per Mur­ray Turner never re­turned.

In a bit­ter irony, the trawler was called Re­turner.

Although a search would later find the wreck­age of the ves­sel at the bot­tom of Nickol Bay near Kar­ratha, with the body of Mr Turner in­side, Mr Fair­ley, 30, and Ma­son are miss­ing, pre­sumed dead.

A transpon­der used by the Fish­eries Depart­ment to track the move­ments of com­mer­cial ves­sels sent its last sig­nal days be­fore a search was launched.

Mrs Carter said her great­est agony was the thought her son may have sur­vived the cap­siz­ing, but it was days be­fore the fam­ily were no­ti­fied.

“I think the tor­ment­ing part as a mother — for all of us re­ally — is the knowl­edge that for those first few days we could have helped if we’d known,” she says.

As author­i­ties pre­pare to re­float Re­turner, Mr Carter said that short of Ma­son walk­ing through the door, “I don’t want clo­sure”.

But Mrs Carter said there was al­ways hope. Nei­ther is will­ing to let go. “If you set out to de­sign a son be­fore you had him, Ma­son is what you’d end up with,” Mr Carter says.

A me­mo­rial was held for Ma­son and Mr Fair­ley on Satur­day in Ger­ald­ton.

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