Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of;
Nicholas Edwin TRIFFETT
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) The identity of the deceased is Nicholas Edwin Triffett (Mr Triffett) who died on 17 April 2010 as a result of a boating accident at Lauderdale.
(b) Mr Triffett was born at Ouse in Tasmania on 13 January 1983 and was aged 27 years.
(c) Mr Triffett was in a de facto relationship and father of one child and at the time of his death was employed as a labourer.
(d) Mr Triffett died from saltwater drowning as a result of a boating accident
Circumstances Surrounding the Death :
At about 12.30pm on Saturday 17 April 2010 Daniel Taylor (Mr Taylor) received a phone call from Mr Triffett inviting him to go out fishing. He arrived at Mr Triffett’s address at approximately 2.30pm where he found that Mr Triffett’s vehicle was already packed with fishing gear. They travelled in Mr Triffett’s vehicle to Lauderdale to see a friend of theirs, Scott Tennant (Mr Tennant) and told him they wanted to go fishing. Mr Tennant contacted a friend, Scott Mason (Mr Mason) asking if his two friends could borrow his boat to go fishing. Mr Mason owned a small 3.15 metre fibreglass dinghy which he kept in the sand dunes on Lauderdale Beach. He believed that although the dinghy was old that it was seaworthy. Mr Mason gave his permission and informed Mr Tennant that the oars belonging to the boat could be found in the driveway of his place in Coolahara Street, Lauderdale. Mr Triffett and Mr Taylor pulled the dinghy from the sand dunes down into the water, then placed the fishing gear and their eski into the dinghy. When the boat was just floating Mr Taylor climbed into the dinghy. Mr Triffett stayed out of the boat and pushed the dinghy further out into deeper water. When the boat was about 5 metres further out Mr Triffett jumped in the boat along with Mr Taylor. Whilst they were in the dinghy neither were wearing lifejackets and there were no life jackets in the dinghy. They paddled out about 150 metres off shore then began fishing. They had not caught any fish and the boat began to drift slowly towards the beach. When the boat was about 50 metres from shore they started to paddle back out and travelled about 100 metres. Due to the fact that Mr Triffett was a stronger paddler than Mr Taylor the boat began to get side on to the swell. It was at this point that the boat was hit by a small wave which caused the dinghy to capsize throwing both men into the water. The dinghy was upside down and completely submerged just below the surface. Each time they grabbed hold of the bow the dinghy began to sink and could not be used to assist keeping them afloat. Mr Triffett and Mr Taylor agreed that they could not make it back to the beach because it was too cold and it was too far to swim. At this point Mr Triffett began to panic. Slowly they were separated by the current. Mr Taylor noticed the eski and grabbed hold of it to help him float. He tried to reach Mr Triffett with it but every time he moved the eski started filling with water. The two then called out for help. Bystanders on the beach recovered Mr Triffett and Mr Taylor using two kayaks and an inflatable dinghy. Mr Triffett had been submerged, was unconscious and not breathing when he was recovered from the water. CPR was commenced and continued until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance officers tried to revive Mr Triffett, he was conveyed to the Royal Hobart Hospital where continued resuscitation efforts were not successful.
The dinghy was in poor condition and assessed by Mr Gwyn Always, Manager Vessel Standards and Survey, Marine and Safety Tasmania, as being unseaworthy. Of particular relevance was the fact that both forward and aft buoyancy compartments were damaged so as to render them ineffective resulting in the boat not being able to float if it were swamped. If this buoyancy had been in proper condition the boat would have been able to support Mr Triffett and Mr Taylor until help arrived. Persons using any form of boat or persons providing such craft to others to use ought ensure that the craft is seaworthy and safe for its intended use.
Although there was no obligation at law for Mr Triffett or Mr Taylor to wear life jackets, this tragedy highlights that accidents can happen in light weather conditions in close proximity to shore. Legislative requirements ought be treated as the minimum safety requirements and persons taking part in water based activities should take all reasonable steps that they assess as being necessary to ensure their safety.
I am satisfied that a full and detailed investigation has been undertaken in relation to the death of Mr Triffett and that there are no suspicious circumstances.
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Triffett.
DATED: 17 November 2010 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.