Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Deaths of Uock PHAM and Justin O'NEILL and Jacob PHAM and Tuan PHAM

Inquest into the Deaths of Uock PHAM and Justin Michael O’NEILL and Jacob Tuan PHAM and Tuan PHAM

Delivered on :30 December 2019

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Jenkin

Recommendations :Yes

Recommendation 1

The Department of Transport consider including the “30 Second Challenge”, (i.e.: where boat users are required gather signal flares, an EPIRB, make a radio call and put on a lifejacket in 30 seconds) in the practical assessment for people seeking a recreational skipper’s ticket.

Recommendation 2

The Department of Transport consider initiating a public awareness campaign using appropriate communication methods, including social media, to encourage all skippers of recreational boat users to:

  1. Ensure that all passengers (including the skipper) wear an appropriate lifejacket at the first sign of bad weather and when the vessel is navigating in following seas;
  2. Ensure that all required safety equipment is stored in such a way as to be immediately available in the event of an emergency;
  3. Consider, prior to commencing a voyage in open waters, the effect on the planned voyage, of all potential impediments to safe navigation, including the weather; and
  4. Provide details of all voyages on open waters to a volunteer marine rescue service prior to setting out and to log on and off with that service at the start and end of the voyage.

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary: At about midday on 3 October 2018, Mr Uock Pham, Mr Tuan Pham, Mr Justin O’Neill and Mr Jacob Pham (the deceased) set off from Woodman Point, Coogee on overnight fishing trip to Rottnest Island. They never returned.

The deceased had planned to travel to Rottnest Island in a 5.4 metre recreational vessel called the Yeah Buoy to fish, before returning to the mainland the next day. A strong wind warning was current as the deceased set off. The deceased had contact with family members by phone and text message, during made the day and night of 3 October 2018 and were aware of the approach of a storm.

Between 2.00 pm and 2.30 pm on 4 October 2018, Mr O’Neill exchanged text messages with friends. He reportedly told them everyone was fine but were not having much luck catching fish and were on their way home. When the Yeah Buoy had not returned by nightfall on 4 October 2018, family members became concerned and contacted police at 9.00 pm. Water Police then began an extensive air, land and sea search for the deceased.

On 5 October 2018, the bodies of Mr Justin O’Neill and Mr Jacob Pham were located southwest of Garden Island near Five Fathom Bank. Over the next few days, numerous items of debris from the Yeah Buoy along with fishing items, boating gear and clothing were located around the south and west sides of Garden Island. On 7 November 2018, human remains, later identified as belonging to Mr Uock Pham, were located.

On 16 November 2018, the hull of the Yeah Buoy was found lying upside down on the seabed at a depth of 20 metres, about 7.4 kilometres west of Mewstone Rocks in an area known as Five Fathom Bank.

The Coroner made two recommendations relating to improving safety and highlighting public awareness for recreational boat users.

The Coroner found all men died on 4 October 2018 in the Indian Ocean near Five Fathom Bank, west of Mewstone Rocks. Mr Jacob Pham and Mr Justin O’Neil died from immersion, but the Coroner was unable to ascertain how Mr Uock Pham and Mr Tuan Pham died.

Catch Words : Communication : Recreational Boating : Recreational Skippers ticket : Logging on and off with marine rescue service : Safety Equipment : Misadventure.

Last updated: 23-Mar-2020

[ back to top ]