Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Qianfang ZHANG

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Qianfang ZHANG

Delivered on :9 March 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Jenkin

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 3 February 2017, Qianfang Zhang (Mr Zhang) began work as a mess boy on the Stella Anita, a large bulk carrier that transported iron ore from the north of Western Australia to ports in the People’s Republic of China.

Mr Zhang went missing from the Stella Anita sometime between about 8.00 pm on 16 September 2017 and about 7.00 am on 17 September 2017.

Mr Zhang was known to have been playing cards in the ship’s galley between about 3.00 pm and about 7.00 pm on 16 September 2017. He was said to have been in good spirits and was seen walking to his cabin at about 7.15 pm. At about 8.00 pm, Mr Zhang took some toiletries to the second mate’s cabin, and again, was described as being in good spirits. This appears to be the last occasion on which Mr Zhang is known to have been alive. The towel which Mr Zhang was seen wearing when he went to the second mate’s cabin was subsequently found in Mr Zhang’s cabin, and would seem that Mr Zhang returned to his cabin after speaking with the second mate.

At about 7.00 am on 17 September 2017, the Stella Anita’s captain was conducting his routine daily inspection. It was during this inspection that it was realised Mr Zhang was missing. The captain ordered immediate searches of the ship, and when Mr Zhang could not be found, the captain alerted Australian maritime authorities. All of the ship’s life jackets were accounted for, meaning that if Mr Zhang had gone overboard, he would not have been wearing one.

The Stella Anita reversed course and, with assistance from other ships in the area, began a search for Mr Zhang. Meanwhile, two search aircraft were deployed from Western Australia and they conducted an aerial search of a vast area of the Indian Ocean. The sea and air searches failed to find any sign of Mr Zhang.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Zhang died on or about 16 September 2017 in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia and made an Open Finding as to the manner of Mr Zhang’s death. Although the Coroner found that Mr Zhang had died outside of the limit of Australia’s territorial seas, the Coroner found that Mr Zhang’s death was a Western Australian death pursuant to the Coroners Act 1996 (WA).

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

Last updated: 30-Mar-2020

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