Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Charles Donald BATES

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Charles Donald BATES

Delivered on :31 March 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Vicker

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 28 July 1977 Charles Donald Bates (Mr Bates) was fishing off Ningaloo Reef at False Passage, Coral Bay, with a friend, when their boat was swamped and capsized by a freak wave. Both men were tipped out of the boat which then caught on the reef. Mr Bates was last seen making his way towards where the boat was bumping over the reef. Mr Bates then disappeared underwater by the edge of the reef and was never seen again. Mr Bates companion on the boat survived and was rescued by two fishermen.

Police were advised on 28 July 1977 that Mr Bates had gone missing. Police travelled to Coral Bay from Exmouth and Carnarvon to search for Mr Bates.   The owner of the Cardabia Station, north of Coral Bay, flew his aircraft through the area a number of times searching for Mr Bates. At the time when police attended there was also an Army helicopter operating out of Learmonth which made a final sweep of the area before dark forced the search to end for that day. An RFDS aircraft made numerous passes over the area where Mr Bates had been reported to have gone missing. They reported they had not seen Mr Bates, but had seen a quantity of debris. All aircraft involved were unauthorised aircraft, but gave their time to assist with searching for Mr Bates before police had been fully deployed.

Police made arrangements for a search on 29 July 1977 for local boats to conduct sea search and a number of holiday makers in the area agreed to assist in a land search along the coast. A further air search was conducted with a pilot and three police spotters. The search was concluded for the day with no sign of Mr Bates. At 6.30 am on 30 July 1977 police launched a sea and land search for Mr Bates accompanied by three volunteers. Three boats continued the search around the area, but on a larger pattern than the previous day, giving emphasis to the prevailing water currents. The search that day continued for 12 hours, again discontinued due to light and tides. There have been no sighting of Mr Bates. Similar searches were conducted on 31 July 1977 by sea and land comprised of police and volunteers. On the final day of the search, for both land and sea were conducted and commenced at 7.00 am on 1 August 1977. Mr Bates has not been located.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Bates is deceased and was deceased in relative proximity to the time of his disappearance. The Coroner found the death occurred by way of Misadventure.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person : Land and Air Search : Misadventure

Last updated: 15-Apr-2020

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