Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Pei Yao CHEN

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Pei Yao CHEN

Delivered on : 9 February 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Pei Yao Chen was working as the bosun aboard the cargo bulk carrier ship Cape Splendor in September/October 2014 when it dropped anchor approximately 13 miles from Port Hedland on 27 September 2014. 

On 6 October 2014, in order to prepare the ship for berthing, Mr Chen erected an accommodation ladder along the side of the vessel.  The bottom of the ladder rested about two metres above the water.  While rigging the accommodation ladder, Mr Chen remarked that he could see a lot fish.  The crew stopped for lunch and left the ladder in the lowered position.  It was usual for the crew to spend some of their recreation time at anchor fishing from the ship’s deck.  However, as the accommodation ladder was rigged, Mr Chen decided to try to fish from the bottom of the ladder.  Mr Chen asked another crew member to help him.  Mr Chen was seen bare chested, having tied the sleeves of his overalls around his waist, and was wearing slip-on shoes.  Mr Chen was seen on the lower platform of the accommodation ladder and had placed a bucket on a ladder step nearby.  The crew mate descended the ladder and then asked Mr Chen if he was comfortable with the angle of the platform.  Mr Chen replied that he was.  Neither men were wearing lifejackets at the time.

Mr Chen was standing with both hands occupied with the fishing gear when the accommodation ladder moved.  Mr Chen lost his balance and fell backwards off the platform into the water.  Mr Chen’s crew mate quickly went back up the ladder to the deck and threw a nearby lifebuoy towards Mr Chen in the water, but it fell short of Mr Chen.  Mr Chen tried to swim towards the lifebuoy but he was being carried away by the current and could not reach it.  The crew mate informed the Captain that Mr Chen had fallen overboard.  The Captain immediately broadcasted an emergency call to all crew.  Mr Chen was seen about 50 metres away from the ship’s stern and was trying to swim towards three lifebuoys and a lifejacket that had been thrown into the water.  The ships rescue boat was launched into the water and Mr Chen was still visible in the water at that time.  However, as the ship’s rescue boat rounded the stern of the vessel, Mr Chen slipped from sight beneath the water.

The Captain reported that there was a man overboard to the Port Hedland Shipping Control tower, including an urgent message to all ships in the port and at anchor.  The rescue boat crew continued searching for Mr Chen but he could not be located.  WA Police organised for a marine search, with the aid of a number of local organisations to assist, including the Port Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue Service and a marine pilot transfer helicopter.  Despite continued searching over a number of days, there was no sign of Mr Chen at any time during the search.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Chen died shortly after he fell into the water on 6 October 2014.  The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that he drowned and the death occurred by way of Accident.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Marine and Air Search : Accident

Last updated: 19-Mar-2022

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