Tributes for fisher lost at sea
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.