Inquest into the Death of Mohammad HASSAN, Mohammad NOOR and Mr SABIBULLAH (SABIB ULLAH)
Delivered on :15 January 2015
Delivered at : Perth
Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Vicker
Orders/Rules : N/A
Suppression Order : N/A
Summary : At the time of their death the three deceased men were three stateless persons, originating from Myanmar, who were given refugee status by the UNHCR. They all travelled at different times from Myanmar to Malaysia and/or Indonesia and on 19 January 2013 they boarded an old, unseaworthy vessel with a decrepit engine (SIEV580) in Java with the hope of reaching Christmas Island and seeking asylum in Australia.
The journey to Christmas Island was expected to take three days, however, on the morning of 23 January 2013 the belt from the engine on the vessel became unusable and the captain stopped the engine to replace the belt. He was then unable to restart the engine. The bilge pump on the vessel would not operate without an engine and passengers had to bail water continuously to prevent the vessel from sinking. The vessel drifted overnight.
There was a discussion between the captain, crew and passengers and it was decided three of the more mature men would leave with the captain on a raft to try and reach Christmas Island and alert authorities to the stricken vessel. The captain and the three deceased men constructed a makeshift raft out of bamboo poles, rope and inner tyre tubes and each individual man had an inner tube tyre as a floatation device around his waist. The four men would paddle with paddles made from wooden planks on board to Christmas Island.
On 24 January 2013 the captain and the three men launched the raft and, despite the pleadings from a number of passengers and indeed some of the crew, the men swam to the raft and set off paddling effectively. The raft was observed from those who remained on the vessel to paddle towards Christmas Island for between one and two hours before the ocean obscured them from view. On 25 January 2013 the stranded vessel was located by HMAS Larrakia. Those on the vessel alerted the authorities on the HMAS Larrakia that 4 men had left the vessel on a raft to seek help. After transferring the passengers and the remaining crew onto the HMAS Larrakia, a search was commenced for the four men on the raft.
On 30 January 2013 the captain was found by Christmas Island residents on Lily Beach. The captain reported the raft had encountered rough seas and the raft disintegrated on their first night after leaving the vessel. He had no floatation device until he managed to grab a piece of driftwood . He did not see the other three men. It is not clear when the captain came ashore onto Christmas Island but it appears he was in the sea for a considerable amount of time. The search failed to locate the other three men on the raft with the captain.
The Coroner was unable to determine whether the deceased men were injured and unconscious but was satisfied that whatever state they were in they were unable to breathe effectively and as a result drowned. There has been no trace of the three men on the surrounds of Christmas Island and there is no evidence any of them survived or reached the island.
The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt the three men are deceased and their death occurred by way of Misadventure.
Catch Words : SIEV UNHCR Identities : Stateless person seeking refugee status : Missing person at sea : Misadventure.
Last updated: 25-Nov-2016
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