Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Carlton Scott TITTUMS

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Carlton Scott TITTUMS

Delivered on: 10 September 2020

Delivered at: Perth

Finding of: Coroner Jenkin

Recommendations: N/A

Orders/Rules: N/A

Suppression Order: N/A

Summary : Mr Tittums was a deckhand on a commercial prawn trawler known as the Belo Star, which was at anchor off Carnarvon.  On 27 July 2011 Mr Tittums swam towards a dinghy that had been tied to the Belo Star, but which had broken free.  Observers on board the Belo Star lost sight of Mr Tittums as he swam towards the dinghy.  Mr Tittums has not been seen since and his body has never been recovered.  He was 34 years of age.

Mr Tittums was part of the crew on the Belo Star which had fished for prawns for four days and then dropped anchor off the Carnarvon coast.  A person who was not part of the crew of the Belo Star approached the vessel in a dinghy and saw Mr Tittums at the back of the vessel.  They had known each other for some years but had not seen each other for four or five years.  The man came on board the Belo Star and he and Mr Tittums chatted for about five minutes.  When Mr Tittums went to get something from the Belo Star’s galley, the man went to check on his dinghy and found that the rope attached it to the Belo Star had snapped and the dinghy had drifted away.  The man asked Mr Tittums to tie a length of rope the lifejacket he was wearing and then jumped into the sea and swam after his dinghy.  Mr Tittums tied several additional lengths of rope to the rope attached to the man’s lifejacket so he could keep swimming towards the dinghy.

At about 2.00 pm on 27 July 20111, Mr Tittums jumped into the sea and started swimming towards the dinghy.  Meanwhile the dinghy owner pulled himself back to the Belo Star using the ropes attached to his lifejacket.  At first, Mr Tittums was swimming strongly, but after a while, he appeared to slow down.  The dinghy owner, who had been watching Mr Tittums, woke the skipper of the Belo Star and told him what had happened.  The skipper saw Mr Tittums in the water and contacted the local Volunteer Marine Rescue Group (VMR).  The skipper then woke the other deckhands on board the Belo Star and contacted the vessel’s fleet master to ask for assistance.  The skipper than started the Belo Star’s engine as the deckhands raised the anchor, intending to get as close to Mr Tittums as possible.  Unfortunately this was not possible because the water was too shallow in that area.

Police co-ordinated an extensive air, land and sea search for Mr Tittums over the period 28 – 30 July 2011, but no trace of Mr Tittums was found.  The search operation used rescue vessels, specialised flood boats from the local State Emergency Services Unit, fixed wing and rotary aircraft and two and four-wheel drive vehicles.

The Coroner was satisfied that evidence established beyond all reasonable doubt, that Mr Tittums was deceased and that he died after entering the waters of the Indian Ocean off Carnarvon.  However, on the basis of the evidence before him, the Coroner was unable to determine the cause of Mr Tittums’ death and made an Open Finding as to the manner of Mr Tittums’ death.

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

Last updated: 7-Dec-2023

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