Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of John (Jack) Edward CARTER

Inquest into the Suspected Death of John (Jack) Edward CARTER

Delivered on : 14 November 2019

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Vicker

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 10 December 1965 Mr Carter was fishing at Sugar Loaf Rock with his wife when a wave swept him into the sea. He surfaced and appeared to be swimming strongly until another wave slammed him into a rock protruding from the water. Immediately following the second incident Mr Carter’s body was noted to be limp and face down in the water.

Mr Carter arrived with his wife at a fishing spot at Sugar Loaf Rock near the Naturaliste Light House on 10 December 1965 at approximately 12.30 pm. Mr Carter choose to fish from a ledge closer to the water than his wife. The sea was described as being reasonably calm, though the water was choppy and the wind was blowing with a land breeze which took their lines out to sea. Mr Carter was wearing his usual fishing clothes. Approximately an hour and a half after commencing to fish another person arrived at the rocks.

Mrs Carter noted there had been two bigger waves than usual crashing onto the rocks and as a result her husband moved his fishing gear back from where he had put it, however, returned to the same spot to fish. Mrs Carter described without warning, a big wave struck her from behind, however, without enough force to knock her over. Mrs Carter immediately turned to see what was happening with the two men. Mr Carter was seen to be swept from where he had been standing on the rock and Mrs Carter noted seeing Mr Carter sliding down the rock face below where he had been standing, with his hands above his head. She believed he was trying to throw himself backwards as his arms were also being thrown backwards. She described him sliding until he went into the water and under the sea. On the wave receding Mr Carter was observed to surface and swim away from the rocks. Mr Carter was seen swimming in the vicinity of the two rocks in the water for approximately 3 minutes before he turned onto his back to rest. Mr Carter then turned onto his stomach and started to swim again. The current was noted to be very strong and Mr Carter did not seem to be moving away from the rocks.

After swimming for approximately 3-4 minutes another big wave picked him up and threw him face first into the rocks near which he was swimming. Mrs Carter saw him go face down into a rock and roll off the rock into the water and disappear. She estimated he was under the water for a few seconds before he came back to the surface, but at this point he was floating face down and not moving. The other fisherman returned with a buoy and observed that Mr Carter was too far away for the buoy to be useful. Attempts were made to haul Mr Carter in with a heavy fishing line to tow him to the shore, this was unsuccessful.

Busselton Police were advised and attended the incident. A search was commenced, however, due to the failing light it had to be suspended until the next day. Divers and police returned on 11 December 1965 and the search continued. Several miles of coastline were patrolled without any evidence of Mr Carter, while two divers made a brief search of the seabed, but again had to abandon the search, this time due to rough water conditions. Searching continued until 17 December 1965 with no trace of Mr Carter.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Carter is deceased and died when he was swept either under rocks or out to sea into deep water. The Coroner determine Mr Carter died as a result of drowning and death occurred by way of Misadventure.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person : Rock Fishing : Sea Search : Immersion : Drowning : Misadventure

Last updated: 13-Jul-2020

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