On a day when tragedies at sea claimed the lives of two fishermen in two completely separate incidents in South Gippsland waters last Sunday, Water police officers Tim Carlin and Lynden Blackley inspect the site, below the cliffs at Kilcunda, where a small fishing boat was wrecked on the rocks. The area was littered with pieces of the boat, fishing gear and provisions but after a day-long search, police were unable to find the missing man.
POLICE have highlighted the need for boat users to wear their life jackets after one man drowned and another is feared dead following two separate boating mishaps in South Gippsland waters last Sunday.
In the first of the incidents, Water police were contacted by Australian Maritime Search and Rescue after they picked up an EPIRB signal of a boat in trouble at about 3.40am.
As a result, the Victoria Police and Air Ambulance Victoria helicopter, ‘Air 495’ discovered an upturned boat at the bottom of cliffs, near Seaview Road, Kilcunda, at about 5.05am while patrolling the rugged Kilcunda coastline.
The single occupant of the boat had still not been found at the time of going to press last night.
Wonthaggi Senior Sergeant, Steve Gibson, reported that the search for the missing man was continuing:
“Police are conducting a marine search after a 37 year old fisherman from Croyden Hills went missing from Newhaven on Saturday night, January 18,” Sergeant Gibson said.
“His vessel, a 16ft runabout was found washed up on rocks at Kilcunda on Sunday, January 19 with no sign of the occupant.”
Water police officers, LSC Tim Carlin and LSC Lynden Blackley, investigating the scene of the wreckage, on rocks at the bottom of a 40 metre cliff some hours later, found a large quantity of debris including fishing rods, bedding, provisions and boat parts but no sign of the missing man.
“A land, sea and air search involving Wonthaggi and Cowes police, Marine and Air wing police as well as Ambulance Victoria and State Emergency Service personnel has so far failed to locate the missing man,” Sgt Gibson said.
Ambulance Victoria Manager of Air Operations, Anthony De Wit, said a second ambulance helicopter was also brought into the search on Sunday.
“The helicopter from Essendon (which found the wrecked boat) was joined by the Latrobe Valley based Air Ambulance helicopter to search the Kilcunda area,” he said.
Diverted to Walkerville
It was then that they got another emergency call further along the coast.
“Both air ambulance helicopters were diverted to Walkerville South where another EPIRB was set off after a boating accident, two kilometres offshore, at about 8am.
“They located two men in the water, approximately 2km off shore.”
Crossing the bar
Police said there were two males on board, a 34 year old from Yarram and a 64 year old from Cranbourne South, when they launched their 4.3 metre outboard motor boat at Shallow Inlet at or around 6am. On attempting to exit the inlet they have encountered large waves at the sand bar and the boat was swamped and overturned.
Police believe neither male was wearing a life jacket but reported that the 34 year old male managed to grab an EPIRB and a life jacket as the boat overturned.
“He has activated the EPERB which alerted the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra via satellite and they have, in turn, contacted local authorities.”
Two helicopters were dispatched, one from Latrobe Valley and one from Melbourne. The 34 year old male managed to swim to shore at the same time as the air ambulance helicopter from Latrobe Valley arrived. The survivor was taken to Latrobe Regional Hospital suffering exhaustion and hypothermia. After a period of observation he was released from hospital.
The police helicopter from Melbourne arrived some time later and located the upturned boat, and also the deceased 64 year old male in the water about 200 metres outside the entrance to Shallow Inlet. The body was retrieved and conveyed to land at Yanakie.
Police from Toora and Foster attended along with Marine police from Gippsland and Melbourne. The boat was again located but unable to be retrieved due to the conditions. Police from the Marine investigation unit will be investigating and preparing a report for the coroner.
Police stressed the importance of wearing life jackets and reiterated that it is compulsory they be worn when a vessell of 4.8 metres and under is underway.
There are also other times that life jackets are compulsory including in larger boats whenever crossing bars, operating a boat alone or in other designated hazardous areas or severe weather events.
Although EPERB devices are not compulsory in all circumstances they are highly recommended and in the incident off Shallow Inlet, it was the only way that police and emergency services became aware of the accident.
Meanwhile police remain concerned for the welfare of the missing Croyden Hills man and continued their search again yesterday at the same strength with several helicopters, the police boat from Williamstown, police on jet skis and also on foot combing the sea and shoreline between Phillip Island and Kilcunda.