Tributes for fisher lost at sea

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era

Tributes have poured in for miss­ing Kar­ratha fish­er­man Nor­man Bale af­ter the search for him was sus­pended last Fri­day night.

Mr Bale was this week de­scribed as a “rough di­a­mond” and a gen­uine bloke with a heart of gold by fam­ily, friends and col­leagues.

De­spite an ex­ten­sive sea, land and air search, res­cuers failed to find Mr Bale last week af­ter he went miss­ing af­ter set­ting off from the Kar­ratha Back Beach boat ramp in his 3.6m alu­minium dinghy late on Fri­day, Septem­ber 23.

His older sis­ter, Deb Bale, who lives in Uki, NSW, and most of Mr Bale’s close-knit fam­ily said he was a kind, ca­pa­ble and gen­tle­man who loved his fam­ily and made them laugh with his abil­ity to see the funny side of any sit­u­a­tion.

“Norm was one of the most gen­er­ous-spir­ited peo­ple in the world,” she said. “He was ca­pa­ble and con­fi­dent and re­source­ful.

“He of­fered as­sis­tance and kind­ness to all who needed it at any time.

“He was a very proud Aus­tralian and he loved a beer and a bar­be­cue and a fish­ing rod and a boat.”

Ms Bale said Mr Bale’s fam­ily were grate­ful for all that had been done to try to find him over the pre­vi­ous week.

“We would like to thank ev­ery­body — the po­lice, the army, the water po­lice, the SES, the vol­un­teers,” she said.

“Our heart­felt thanks to all who searched and shared and loved and waited and prayed and hoped.”

Ms Bale said her brother had worked in Kar­ratha for sev­eral years be­fore mov­ing back East to live with fam­ily in 2014, and re­turned early this year.

She said he had loved the Pil­bara and felt he was his “most au­then­tic self” here.

Mr Bale’s su­per­vi­sor at Scar­boro Paint­ing Kar­ratha and friend, Ste­wart Bullen, who re­ported him

miss­ing on Sun­day night af­ter go­ing to pick up the con­sci­en­tious worker and notic­ing he had not re­turned from his fish­ing trip, said he was a good and gen­tle-hearted bloke. “He was a great guy,” he said. “A bit of a rough di­a­mond, you know, but a good fel­low, with a good heart.

“He loved his fish­ing and crab­bing, and he loved kids. He was a clas­sic case of don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Mr Bullen said Mr Bale was a real out­doors man and made the most of the Pil­bara life­style with fish­ing and camp­ing trips.

He said it had been a “rough week” for the work­place, es­pe­cially cop­ing with the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing what had hap­pened to their col­league.

Scar­boro Paint­ing Kar­ratha man­ager Gerry Daniels said Mr Bale had been a plea­sure to work with through­out the six years he had spent at the com­pany.

“On be­half of the of­fice, he was a lovely guy, a nice lad to work with, a good hard worker, and he was one of those gen­uine rough di­a­monds that you don’t see any­where else,” he said. “I’ll miss him.”

Po­lice be­gan search­ing for Mr Bale late on Sun­day and on Mon­day were joined by the water po­lice, lo­cal vol­un­teer sea res­cue teams, the SES, army, the departments of Trans­port and Fish­eries and mem­bers of the pub­lic.

His semi-sub­merged boat was found off­shore of Dixon Is­land, near Cleaverville, by a pass­ing recre­ational fish­er­man just be­fore mid­day on Tues­day. Po­lice con­tin­ued search­ing for the rest of the week, though they said af­ter so long at sea, they be­lieved it had be­come a re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion.

A fur­ther aerial search took place on Thurs­day af­ter po­lice re­ceived un­con­firmed in­for­ma­tion, but af­ter noth­ing was found ei­ther that day or Fri­day, the de­ci­sion was made to sus­pend op­er­a­tions.

Speak­ing on Mon­day, Pil­bara dis­trict po­lice Se­nior Sergeant Kal Green­away said they were dis­ap­pointed they had been un­able to find Mr Bale, but had at this stage “ex­hausted ev­ery op­tion”.

“When you look at the maps and the mod­el­ling we were given around tides, waves, drifts, the amount of days he’s been miss­ing, sur­viv­abil­ity, all those sorts of things, and the num­bers of peo­ple who were search­ing — by Fri­day af­ter­noon, when we looked at all of the things we’d done all week, and we’d re­flected on ev­ery­thing, it was de­cided that at this point in time, there was not much more we could do re­lated to the search­ing,” she said.

Sen. Sgt Green­away said Mr Bale’s fam­ily had been very sup­port­ive through­out what had been an “emo­tional roller­coaster ride”.

“They have been over­whelmed by the amount of work that all the agen­cies and all the mem­bers of the pub­lic over here have done for it,” she said.

Sen. Sgt Green­away said the next step for po­lice would be to come up with a sce­nario of what hap­pened to Mr Bale af­ter sift­ing through the large amount of in­for­ma­tion col­lected dur­ing the search.

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