The fatal drowning of a Loan Market
broker in 2014 was an accident that could have been prevented, an in-depth coroner’s investigation has concluded.
The tragedy, which occurred on a charter boat excursion to Rottnest Island, saw senior broker Damien Mills fall overboard about 5.6km off of Leighton Beach in Fremantle. Despite headcounts allegedly taking place, no one noticed he was gone until the following day when his wife reported him missing.
“This was a particularly tragic case, involving the death of a hardworking father of a young family who went out for a simple day of socialising and networking as part of his business and never returned home,” said Western Australian coroner, Sarah Linton.
While the death was an accident, evidence surrounding the case suggests the incident was preventable, she added.
“The evidence underscored the need for simple processes, such as performing careful and orderly headcounts and supervising passengers properly while on board, to be undertaken by the crew of charter boats to ensure the safety of their passengers. If that had been done in this case, the deceased might still be alive today.”
The charter was booked by Pepper Australia for a networking event held on 31 October 2014. The boat itself departed for Rottnest Island with around 34 people on board. The return trip was characterised by many witnesses as rough with a number of passengers falling due to a combination of alcohol and heavy waves.
Compounding this was evidence heavily implying that a final headcount was not conducted, Linton said.
“There was strong evidence that many of the passengers disembarked almost immediately at different parts of the boat … which made any proper headcount an impossibility.”
The final cause of death was reported as drowning with contributory factors including exposure, hypothermia and exhaustion. Mills is survived by his wife and three children.
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