Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Gary Lance JOHNSON

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Gary Lance JOHNSON


Delivered on : 20 November 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 5 January 2020 Mr Johnson was attacked by a shark while scuba diving in the ocean off Esperance. Mr Johnson’s wife was a witness to the attack and it was apparent that Mr Johnson was gravely injured and she believed he died in the water. Despite all efforts by Mr Johnson’s wife and searchers to recover his body, he has not been found.

Mr Johnson and his wife departed Esperance Boat Ramp after lunchtime and went to one of Mr Johnson’s favourite diving spots, known as Devils Rock, which lies between Cull Island and Charley Island in the Recherche Archipelago. The location is a shallow dive spot. The weather was warm with a low swell and good visibility in the water. Mr Johnson was wearing a wetsuit, shark shield, an oceanic computer on his left wrist, a torch on his right wrist and a knife strapped to his left leg. He also had his Buoyancy Compensator Device, 15 litre tank and blue fins. Upon entering the water Mr Johnson attached a black rope around a rock for extra safety in respect to the anchor line. It was Mr Johnson’s habit to turn off his shark shield when he reached the bottom to tie the rope off, so that he did not become tangled and get a shock. He would then turn it on again.

Mr Johnson’s wife watched him swim over the mound before she lost sight of him. Mr Johnson’s wife then saw him came back again. She believed there was something different to his usual behaviour and so swam towards him. As she approached she looked down and noted there was no visibility, however, there was blood and sand. She saw a large shark tail that was grey on top and white underneath. The tail was flapping ferociously. Both the shark and Mr Johnson then disappeared. Mr Johnson’s wife decided to swim up the anchor line. It was as she reached the surface along the anchor line that she found Mr Johnson. She thought at this stage Mr Johnson may still have been alive, although he did not have his mask on, his eyes were wide open and his right arm was missing. He then appeared to become lifeless.

Mr Johnson’s wife attempted to get him back to the boat but despite all her efforts she was unable to get him into the boat. She eventually had to let go and Mr Johnson sank down in the water. Mr Johnson’s wife got in the boat and called for help. A number of vessels responded and a search was commenced. The search for Mr Johnson continued until Tuesday 7 January 2020. His body has never been recovered but some of his equipment was, which showed clear evidence of an attack by a great white shark.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Johnson is deceased and was deceased in relative proximity to the time of his disappearance. The Coroner found Mr Johnson died by way of misadventure.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Shark Attack : Scuba Diving : Misadventure

Last updated: 23-Dec-2020

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