Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Winston Abalona CHAVEZ

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Winston Abalona CHAVEZ

Delivered on : 9 February 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Winston Abalona Chavez was a Filipino national who worked as an oiler on the cargo ship “MV Baltic Frontier” at the time of his disappearance in May 2009.  Mr Chavez was a 39 year old single man and his place of residence remained the Philippines, where his family also lived.  Mr Chavez was last seen around lunchtime on 8 May 2009, while the vessel was berthed in Useless Loop, Shark Bay, loading salt.  Mr Chavez has not been heard from or seen again.

Mr Chavez joined the vessel on 23 April 2009 while it was in Japan.  He was hired on a 10 month contract.  Mr Chavez’ job involved lubricating and checking the engines of the vessel, and he worked under the Duty Engineer.  On 2 May 2009, during the journey to Shark Bay, it was noted that Mr Chavez was not concentrating on his routine job and the boiler cascade tank overflowed while being filled during his duty shift.  On 4 May 2009, Mr Chavez approached the Captain of the vessel, and asked if he could be released from his contract early as his sister had informed him that his mother was taken ill and he wished to fly home to the Philippines to be with his family.  The Captain assured Mr Chavez he would assist him to ty to get him home.  Unfortunately, as Shark Bay is a remote location, it was not possible for the company to make arrangements for Mr Chavez to fly home.  He was advised by the Captain that he would have to wait until the vessel returned to Japan.  Mr Chavez accepted that he would have to wait.

Mr Chavez was last seen by a crew member at about lunchtime on 8 May 2009 in the corridor of the vessel.  Mr Chavez said that he was going to get some fresh air.  The crew member suggested Mr Chavez should get something to eat and try to text his family as there was a good signal.  Mr Chavez then turned around and went back into his cabin.  At 7.00 pm a crew member knocked on Mr Chavez’s cabin door, which was locked, Mr Chavez did not reply to the knocking.

On 9 May 2009 at 7.50 am, a crew member found Mr Chavez’s wallet on a step on the first deck.  After initial enquiries were made of all crew as to the whereabouts of Mr Chavez, a search of the ship was commenced.  As Mr Chavez could not be located, the Captain of the vessel made a broadcast to other vessels in the area that Mr Chavez was missing, and he reported the situation to the shipping agent and asked them to advise all local authorities.  The WA Police requested that the vessel turn around and head back to Shark Bay to try to search for Mr Chavez.  The vessel turned around and dropped anchor at Useless Loop at 6.00 am on 10 May 2009.  Extensive searches were undertaken to find Mr Chavez but he was not found. 

Police investigation found no evidence another person was involved in his disappearance.  Police confirmed Mr Chavez had not contacted any family members since the date of his disappearance.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Chavez is deceased and that he died on or about 8 May 2009m, after the vessel left Useless Loop.  The Deputy State Coroner was unable to determine how Mr Chavez died and made an Open Finding as to the manner of Mr Chavez’s death.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Land and Air Search : Open Finding

Last updated: 19-Mar-2022

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