Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Thomas Dominic RAE

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Thomas Dominic RAE

Delivered on :14 May 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Jenkin

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Rae went missing on 7 July 2019 while fishing from rocks at Shelley Beach near Coomalbidgup, about 70 km west of Esperance. He was 25 years of age.

On the morning of 7 July 2019 Mr Rae and a friend drove to Shelley Beach to go fishing. They had gone fishing in this general area on a number of occasions in the previous 18 months and had fished at the same spot the week before. There was a light breeze and a two to three metre swell. Waves were crashing onto the shore causing a substantial amount of sea water to flow over rocks near the shoreline. The rocks are covered with black algae and become extremely slippery when wet.

After Mr Rae and his friend had fished from the beach for about 40 minutes, Mr Rae climbed onto rocks about 50 metres away. Mr Rae returned and told his friend he was going to fish from rocks. Mr Rae’s friend was very apprehensive about fishing from rocks, because he knew it was dangerous and neither he, nor Mr Rae were experienced rock fishers. Mr Rae walked off in the direction of the rocks with his fishing gear, and his friend lost sight of him as Mr Rae moved behind a rocky outcrop. After about 10 minutes the friend went to check on him and found one of Mr Rae’s fishing rods and a packet of fish bait resting on the rocks. There was no sign of Mr Rae.

After searching the rocks in the area Mr Rae’s friend ran to the beach carpark to see if Mr Rae had gone to his car. The friend then sent a text message to his partner, telling her what had happened and then continued searching. The friend’s partner and her father arrived at Shelley Beach to help look for Mr Rae. At 12.10 pm, police were advised that Mr Rae had gone missing and at about the same time, the Police Operations Centre advised the Water Police and the Esperance Volunteer Search and Rescue Group. Meanwhile, arrangements were made for police divers and jet-skis from Surf Life Saving WA to be made available to assist the search, by first light on 8 July 2019.

The search for Mr Rae continued for nine days, until 16 July 2019 and involved SES foot patrols, rescue vessels from the Department of Transport, the police drone, police divers and vehicle patrols. The search operation attracted significant interest from the media, including social media, but Mr Rae has not been found.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Rae had died and that after being swept off rocks, he died from immersion (drowning). The Coroner found Mr Rae’s death occurred by way of accident.

Catch Words : Dangers of Rock Fishing : Search Operation : Timeframe for Survival : Accident

Last updated: 23-Jun-2020

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