Mandatory lifejackets for rock fishers

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

A WA coroner is set to recommend the wearing of lifejackets be made compulsory for all rock fishers across the State following the conclusion of an inquest into the drowning death of two men at Salmon Holes two years ago.

Deputy State coroner Evelyn Vicker indicated today her findings into the deaths of Chinese men Chunjun Li and Jiaolong Zhang would include the mandatory wearing of lifejackets after hearing four days of evidence.

Both men perished after a large wave swept them off rocks at the notorious fishing spot on April 18, 2015.

Mr Li’s body was recovered but Mr Zhang’s body was never found.

On the final day of the inquest, Ms Vicker also indicated her findings would include a request for renewed negotiations between agencies into improved radio and mobile communications in the area, the ongoing use of drones for rescues and the funding of further research for targeted awareness education.

Ms Vicker said she was interested in saving lives and assist rescue crews with the recovery of bodies if saving a life cannot be achieved.

The court heard from sea survivability expert Dr Paul Luckin who strongly recommended that every effort be made to achieve legislation to mandate life jackets be worn by all rock fishers at all locations at all times across the State.

Dr Luckin also recommended the life jackets be self-inflating to a high standard, have reflective material, a whistle, light and an EPIRB rescue beacon to assist in rescue efforts by first responders.

He said Mr Li’s chances of survival were “far higher” if he had worn a life jacket and Mr Zhang, who was never recovered, would only have survived “a few minutes”.

“I am being generous with minutes only because I cannot positively say seconds,” he said.

“Minutes would be the longest someone would expect to survive.”

Dr Luckin said it was “no question” that a life jacket increased the chance of survival as it lifted the head above water and gave the fisher buoyancy and the argument of a lifejackets being too expensive was “ridiculous” as they saved lives.

Earlier in the day, long standing fishing store owner Jim Allan said he had only hired two lifejackets which are free to hire, in the past two years.

Ms Vicker said she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Mr Zhang was dead but was troubled by labelling the manner of Mr Li’s death as an accident or misadventure.

The inquest into the rock fishing death of Ali Mohammad Soltani, almost a year to the day later at Salmon Holes, will be heard tomorrow.

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