Catastrophic event likely swamped boat of Rockingham fishermen on Coral Bay fishing trip: Coroner

Nigel Kitchen.
Andrew Hinds.
Nigel Kitchen. Andrew Hinds.

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 the Coral Bay in the morning.

Mr Hind’s 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 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 fishing location, which they intended to reach in time to fish the 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 is 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 south passage.

Ms Vicker concluded it was most likely the men decided to transit out through 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, and were probably injured in the event and as a consequence drowned.

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

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.

Recommendations:

* All recreational activities on the water be undertaken with the wearing of personal floatation devices activated on contact with water.

* Where recreational activities are undertaken in conditions where EPIRBs are used, those EPIRBs include a water activated device which is located externally to the cabin and does not require manual activation.

* Those intending to fish recreationally off shore notify the local marine volunteer search and rescue group, or at the very least, friends and family of their intended route, and of changes directed by weather conditions where possible.

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