Malaysian orphan’s watery grave

Just who was the 20-year-old whom bravery-award lifesavers Johnny Heesters and Scott Jessamine tried in vain to find after making 12 rescues that Sunday?

Justin Bianchini gleans details of his life from Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker’s report.

WHEN Beng Keong He leaves for WA in November 2011, he tells a cousin, Kar Ping, in Malaysia, he is going to Australia to harvest tomatoes.

His visa is for three months and he is not allowed to work.

But he winds up working in tomato gardens in and around Wanneroo and becomes what Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker calls an ‘unlawful citizen’ when his visa expires on February 6, 2012.

Born on December 29, 1991 in Perlis, Malaysia, he is orphaned at the age of five and subsequently brought up by his aunt in Kedah, Malaysia.

In Perth, he becomes a friend of Ong Peng Tam and other Malaysian nationals through their shared accommodation. He posts photographs of himself on Facebook which are seen by his cousin in Malaysia.

He and his mate Ong Peng apply for abalone fishing licences at Joondalup Post Office after researching information on the Department of Fisheries website.

Beng Keong, Ong Peng and three other Malaysian nationals decide to go abalone fishing on Sunday, November 4. They leave their accommodation about 5am and drive in a green hatchback to Yanchep.

They join mostly people of Asian origin waiting for the abalone season to start at 7am.

Two Fisheries officers provide the young men with brochures on the rules for the fishing of the reef delicacy.

They are photographed with the officers before assembling their fishing aids, screwdriver, ruler and a modified washing bag, and entering the water.

Beng Keong is excited when Ong Peng shows him his first abalone.

Then he is swept off the reef into the lagoon and calls out for help in Mandarin.

Ong Peng tries to swim towards him but being a ‘not good’ swimmer gets into difficulty and is rescued. He gains the attention of lifesaver Johnny Heesters and points out to the ocean with the words ‘My friend, my friend’.

Beng Keong, last seen by his friend waving his arms and with his head going up an down under the water, is never seen again despite an incredible effort by Mr Heesters and the subsequent full-scale search.