Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Michael Richard GRUBB

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Michael Richard GRUBB

Delivered on : 28 March 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Vicker

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Grubb was a 34 year old man who went missing on 16 August 2019 after he jumped overboard from the yacht he was sailing on to retrieve a dinghy which had come adrift from the yacht.

On 9 June 2019 Mr Grubb and his friend purchased a 9.3 metre yacht, named the Avalon.  It was old and in need of repairs.  The vessel was moored at Mangles Bay in Cockburn Sound.  Minor repairs were made to the vessel prior to making arrangements to move it to a dry dock in the Swan River, where the vessel would undergo further repairs.

On 16 August 2019, Mr Grubb joined two other crew on the Avalon with the intention of sailing from Woodman Point to Fremantle, and then on to the dry dock.  The weather forecast predicted gale force winds but a crew member checked on the Bureau of Meteorology website it did not indicate any storm or rain on their radar.  However, according to records, at the time of the incident, the Bureau of Meteorology had released a weather warning forecasting thunderstorms and showers which may produce winds with peak gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour.  The experience of the crew was described as: one crew member being a semi-experienced sailor, the other crew member had some experience with powered boats, but no sailing experience and Mr Grubb was a complete novice.

The Avalon set sail from Woodman Point under power of the wind at approximately 12.30pm.  None of the men were wearing a PFD.

Shortly after setting sail the yacht encountered squally conditions with a heavy swell.  As the port side winch was defective and still needing repair, it was necessary to operate the starboard winch to sail the boat.  This made navigating the boat difficult.  Conditions quickly deteriorated so the crew decided to try to return to Woodman Point.  Unfortunately, while doing so the tether point on the dinghy snapped off and it became adrift.

Mr Grubb removed his shirt and shoes and jumped overboard, intending to recover the zodiac.  The dinghy was approximately 10 metres from the yacht when Mr Grubb entered the water.  Mr Grubb was seen by the other crew members to surface and wave at them before swimming towards the dinghy.  The weather conditions deteriorated further, and visibility was very poor.  After approximately 15 minutes the weather eased but the dinghy and Mr Grubb was not seen due to the swell.  After five to ten minutes the dinghy was seen approximately 800 to 1,000 metres away, but Mr Grubb was not aboard.  One of Mr Grubb’s fellow crew members tried to send a distress signal on the radio, but the aerial had broken during the storm and it would not transmit.  The men did not deploy an EPIRB or distress flares, which were on board.  Instead, they decided to aim for land and raise the alarm.

The men struggled to control the yacht and managed to steer it a nearby floating wharf at the Australian Marin Complex in Henderson.  Staff at the complex came to their assistance  The Manager of the Australian Marine Complex made his way down to the floating wharf and could see the two men struggling with the yacht.  When he spoke to one of the men on the yacht, he was advised that Mr Grubb had gone overboard.  The Cockburn Volunteer marine Rescue Group and Water Police were advised and a search commenced for Mr Grubb.

Extensive multi-agency air, sea and land searches were commenced in treacherous conditions, but they failed to find Mr Grubb.

On 17 August 2019, the dinghy was located capsized some distance from where it was last seen.  Mr Grubb was not on board.  There was no evidence to suggest he had made it to the dinghy.  The search for Mr Grubb continued for three days until a decision was made to suspend it on 18 August 2019.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Grubb is deceased and died around the time of his disappearance in the water on 16 August 2019.  While the Deputy State Coroner indicated his death was likely due to drowning, there was insufficient evidence to be able to be satisfied of a cause of death, as injury could not be excluded as a contribution to the death.  The Deputy State Coroner found the manner of death occurred by way of accident.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Air, Sea and Land Search : Accident

Last updated: 6-Apr-2022

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