Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Damien Mark MILLS

Inquest into the Death of Damien Mark MILLS

Delivered on :30 October 2017

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Linton

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : The deceased was last seen alive while a passenger on a charter boat off Rottnest Island on 31 October 2014. His body was found floating in the Indian Ocean about three nautical miles off Leighton Beach around midday on 1 November 2014.

On 31 October 2014 the deceased was a guest attending a networking function on a charter boat named “Ten Sixty Six” operated by Swan River Boat Charters. Guests boarded the vessel and the skipper and deckhand conducted a headcount of 35 passengers on board, although the Coroner found there were 34 passengers on board.  A safety briefing was conducted before the boat departed for Rottnest Island around 9.20 am.  The sea conditions on the way to Rottnest were described as reasonable.  Photographs were taken of the deceased around 10.30 am when the boat arrived at Parakeet Bay.

During the course of the day the sea conditions worsened and around 2.30 pm, when the Ten Sixty Six was leaving Parakeet Bay to return to Fremantle, the seas had risen to an estimated 1 to 1.5 metres and the wind had picked up to 18-22 knots. Various passengers recalled seeing the deceased at different positions on the boat.  He was seen in the back of the boat near an ipod dock and sitting on a large blue esky.  At the time the passengers disembarked it is unclear if a headcount was conducted or if it was how accurate the headcount was conducted.

The deceased was reported missing by his family on 1 November 2014. At about the same time a report was made that a deceased male had been found floating approximately three nautical miles off Leighton Beach, who was later identified as the deceased.

The Coroner noted that there was evidence that the deceased’s death may have been preventable if his disappearance had been identified sooner. The Coroner concluded the evidence underscored the need for simple processes, such as performing careful and orderly headcounts and supervising passengers properly while on board, which should be undertaken by the crew of a charter boat to ensure the safety of their passengers.

The Coroner found the deceased died on or about 31 October 2014 in the Indian Ocean approximately three nautical miles off Leighton Beach in circumstances consistent with immersion and found death was by way of accident.

The Coroner did not make any recommendations but made the observation the Court had been informed by AMSA that they have understood the safety issues raised by the death of the deceased and it was AMSA’s intention that steps will be taken to promote headcounts as a safety measure. The Coroner urged AMSA to ensure that safety systems be implemented and are duly carried out by operators with care and diligence.

Catch Words : Requirements for Final Headcount on Charter Boats : Missing Persons : Lifejackets : Drowning : Accident

Last updated: 17-Nov-2017

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