RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (WITHOUT INQUEST)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated a death as a result of saltwater drowning.
The deceased died on 11 December 2007 at Roaring Beach.
The deceased was aged 69 years. He was a married man who at the time of his death was a retired person.
I find that the deceased died as a result of saltwater drowning.
At the time his death, the deceased was not being treated by a medical practitioner
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH:
On 10 December 2007, a friend collected the deceased from his home address. They travelled to the friend’s shack at Roaring Beach, Dover. There they fished on the beach and remained at the friend’s shack overnight.
On 11 December 2007, both men worked around the shack until about 1.30pm and then drank a stubby of beer each before going to the Dover Hotel, where the friend consumed two 10oz beers and the deceased two 8oz beers. Both men then went to the Dover RSL where the friend consumed another 10oz beer and the deceased consumed a further two 8oz beers.
The men returned to the shack at Roaring Beach at about 3.00pm to again fish. They launched the friend’s 3.55 metre aluminium dinghy. The friend’s dinghy was not fitted with a motor. The men on two occasions rowed out about 100m from shore and would then drift back toward shore with the aid of the onshore breeze and would continue to row out and drift back inwards.
Evidence suggests that both men initially were wearing personal flotation devices (PFD), however they removed them while fishing. The men also had on board the dinghy, a small esky which contained 2 stubbies of Cascade Draught for the friend and 2 cans of Cascade Red for the deceased.
On the third occasion after rowing away from shore and then fishing whilst drifting the deceased has said "I got a bite again" and on doing so has suddenly moved to the side of the dinghy causing it to capsize. The men were able to right the boat, however a combination of the wind and swell caused it to again turn back over. The friend has grabbed hold of the dinghy however the deceased has swum in a direction away from the boat while saying something about a fishing rod. The friend kept on yelling to the deceased however the deceased did not swim back toward the dinghy. The deceased was observed by the friend shortly thereafter to disappear under water. The friend managed to keep hold of the dinghy and was then able to drift safely to shore.
A walker on the beach observed what was happening, put on a PFD and swam to the deceased and brought him ashore. CPR was commenced until Ambulance personnel arrived, however the deceased was unable to be revived.
A subsequent post mortem examination carried out by the Pathologist ascertained the cause of death as being saltwater drowning.
The examination revealed heavy congested lungs, pulmonary oedema and airway froth which are signs consistent with saltwater drowning.
Toxicology testing revealed an elevated blood alcohol level of 0.100g/100mL of blood.
I am satisfied that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased.
I find that the deceased died on 11 December 2007 at Roaring Beach as a result of saltwater drowning.
This unfortunate incident once again highlights the risks that are associated with boating. Although as a matter of law PFD’s were not required to be worn as the boat was not fitted with a motor, it would have been prudent to keep them on whilst fishing given the –
weather and wave conditions;
light construction of the boat;
freeboard being lower than expected on a boat of that size;
age of the occupants; and
the alcohol that had been consumed.
Although the primary responsibility for the safety of all onboard a boat lies with the person in charge of the boat, all persons need to be aware of the risks and take appropriate steps to safeguard their own welfare.
The boat capsize was caused by a combination of the light boat construction, weather conditions and sudden movement of the deceased to one side of the boat. Once in the water his prospects of survival were adversely affected by his action to swim away from the boat. Whether his decision to do this was contributed to by an affected decision making capability due to his blood alcohol reading I am unable to say, however the combination of alcohol and boating unfortunately claimed another victim.
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family.
DATED: 25th June 2008 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.