TWO-and-a-half years after a Canning Vale man disappeared in the water near Yanchep Lagoon, the WA Coroner’s Court has found he drowned from “misadventure”.
Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker has released results of an inquest into the October 2013 disappearance of Samir Joseph Abraham (30) this month.
Ms Vicker found the death was “beyond all reasonable doubt” a result of drowning after Mr Abraham went for a swim at the lagoon early evening on October 26, 2013.
“He attempted to swim to the reef creating the lagoon,” she said.
“Just before he reached the reef he appeared to experience difficulties in reaching the reef.
“He then disappeared under water and despite an extensive sea, land and air search, was never seen again.”
A musician who used the name Murffelz, Mr Abraham was working as a plasterer with friend Shane Dunbar in 2013.
According to the deputy coroner, on the day of his disappearance, they had been working and returned to Mr Dunbar’s house in Yanchep where they had drinks and dinner before going to the beach.
“The deceased was drinking vodka and orange juice,” Ms Vicker said.
“Mr Dunbar did not consider the deceased to be particularly intoxicated.
“The deceased then joined Mr Dunbar and his family for a meal prepared by Mr Dunbar’s partner, Brieannon Hull.”
In her statement, Ms Hull said they arrived at the beach about 5.30pm and she was ready to leave about 6.05pm when Mr Abraham decided to swim to the reef.
“He wished to stand on the reef in the vicinity of the locator and shout ‘King Kong ain’t got s*** on me’,” Ms Vicker said.
“Ms Hull attempted to dissuade the deceased from swimming out because she knew he had been drinking and did not believe it was a good idea.
“The deceased took his thongs and cap off, but was otherwise dressed, and walked down to the water directly opposite the locator on the reef and began to swim out to the reef.
“He was wearing red shorts and black T-shirt.”
Ms Hull saw him swimming freestyle initially but said he appeared to slow down and changed to breaststroke, and Mr Dunbar then became concerned his friend might be in trouble.
“Mr Dunbar estimated the deceased reached within about 2m of the reef when he stopped and appeared to be doing breaststroke which continued for about 10 minutes,” Ms Vicker said.
She said Mr Abraham appeared to be stationary and not making progress, then his head disappeared under water and the couple decided to call for help.
“Mr Dunbar attempted to call from the beach but there was no reception and he ran up into the carpark in an attempt to obtain signal,” the deputy coroner said.
“There he spoke to a male person who had been snorkelling earlier and that person ran straight back down towards the beach with Mr Dunbar following.”
In the interim, Ms Hull had seen Mr Abraham about 20m north of the locator and saw him lift his right arm up as if signalling for help before disappearing under water.
“She did not see him again,” Ms Vicker said.
“Mr Dunbar then called 000 to inform emergency services.
“Mr Dunbar attempted to go into the water to look for the deceased but Ms Hull remonstrated with him and they waited for police to arrive.”
When police arrived about 6.40pm, they started a search and were joined by Yanchep Surf Life Saving Club volunteers John Heesters and Sharon Taylor.
“The weather conditions for visibility through the water were good and Mr Heesters and Ms Taylor were confident they would easily see the deceased’s red shorts in the water,” Ms Vicker said.
“The two surf life savers directed their efforts towards the northern end of the lagoon, that is to the right of the locator.”
With help from the police helicopter spotlight, the search continued until about 7.20pm, and resumed the following day.
The search ended mid-morning on October 28, but Mr Abraham was never seen again and his body was not retrieved.
“There has been no evidence he survived and there is no reason for him to have either faked a disappearance or decided to end his life,” the coroner said.
Ms Vicker said Surf Life Saving WA had assessed safety at the lagoon in April 2013 and City of Wanneroo had approved safety signage on October 9 that year, which it installed on November 18.
“Aside from the permanent rip on the inner side of the reef, Yanchep Lagoon is generally considered to be a relatively safe beach and is classified as only moderately hazardous, depending upon the weather conditions,” she said.
“In the conditions that were occurring on October 26, 2013 there should not have been a problem for a competent swimmer in dealing with the current.
“The deceased, who appeared to be in good health and was able to swim, should have been able to remain afloat despite running into difficulties, unless he became trapped under water as an explanation for his failure to reappear.”