In­quest con­cludes men took risks


Weekend Courier - - Front Page - Vanessa Sch­mitt

TWO Rock­ing­ham men who failed to re­turn from a Co­ral Bay fish­ing trip most likely died from a cat­a­strophic event that swamped their ves­sel, a Coro­nial In­quest has found.

The in­quest was into the dis­ap­pear­ance of Port Kennedy 50-year-old Nigel Kitchen and 57-year-old Cooloongup man An­drew Hinds on May 29, 2016.

Their dis­ap­pear­ance prompted a mas­sive land, sea and air search, in­volv­ing a plane, po­lice boat, Vol­un­teer Ma­rine Res­cue boats and quad bikes.

The search was called off af­ter four days.

The in­quest de­ter­mined the two men left a boat ramp south of Co­ral Bay in the morn­ing.

Mr Hinds’ boat had been ex­ten­sively checked by way of ser­vice and im­proved di­ag­nos­tics, in­clud­ing be­ing equipped with two EPIRBs.

The weather fore­cast on the day was for wors­en­ing con­di­tions and the two men had been ad­vised to avoid south pas­sage and use the north pas­sage route to­wards their in­tended des­ti­na­tion.

Deputy State Coro­ner Eve­lyn Vicker was sat­is­fied both men were ex­pe­ri­enced mariners and would have made a de­ci­sion for them­selves as to the ap­pro­pri­ate exit from the reef to their pro­posed fish- ing lo­ca­tion, which they in­tended to reach in time to fish at high tide.

She con­cluded on the ev­i­dence it seemed likely that, de­spite the warn­ings, the two men de­cided they would risk tak­ing the south pas­sage.

While it was not pos­si­ble to be cer­tain as to the exit point through the reef, it was noted that all de­bris lo­cated was ei­ther in the vicin­ity of the south pas­sage, both on the west and east board­ers, or consistent with drift from an area around the south pas­sage.

Ms Vicker con­cluded it was most likely the men de­cided to tran­sit out through the south pas­sage and the boat was swamped in one cat­a­strophic event, which cap­sized the ves­sel, caus­ing it to dis­in­te­grate very quickly.

The two men were not in a po­si­tion to ac­ti­vate any of the safety equip­ment on board. She said they were prob­a­bly in­jured in the event and as a con­se­quence drowned.

Re­mains of Mr Kitchen were re­cov­ered on May 31, 2016.

Ms Vicker found there was no ev­i­dence ei­ther man sur­vived.

She was sat­is­fied be­yond all rea­son­able doubt as to the death of Mr Hinds, for whom no re­mains were lo­cated.

The in­quest high­lighted the need for recre­ational boaters to have ad­di­tional safety mea­sures.

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