“Please wear a life vest” — Albany police

Daryna ZadvirnaAlbany Advertiser
SES volunteers at the Salmon Holes control post.
Camera IconSES volunteers at the Salmon Holes control post. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Police have pleaded with visitors to wear life vests if they plan to go rock fishing around Albany’s rugged coastline.

The search for a young Northam couple off the Bald Head peninsula became a recovery mission this morning with police declaring they had done everything they could to find the pair alive.

Police divers will travel from Perth this weekend to look for the bodies of Geoffrey Bignell, 20, and Victoria McCloy, 22, after they went missing on a rock fishing trip.

Great Southern Superintendent Ian Clarke said evidence found during the search indicated the couple might have encountered trouble on Saturday afternoon during a 4m swell.

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“We've conducted a peer-review of the search, and as a result of that we're satisfied we've done everything we possibly can,” Supt Clarke said.

“We will now move into the process of putting together a missing person’s file, as we can’t definitively say what had happened.”

Great Southern Police District Superintendent Ian Clarke at the Bald Head Walk carpark.
Camera IconGreat Southern Police District Superintendent Ian Clarke at the Bald Head Walk carpark. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Mr Bignell and Ms McCloy were last seen on Saturday when they were buying what appeared to be a fishing gaff for their trip to Torndirrup National Park.

Their car was found in a carpark at the start of the Bald Head walk trail, a challenging walking trail which has been the setting for several rescues in recent years.

Ms McCloy’s mother raised the alarm on Monday morning after they failed to return.

A massive search stretched across the next three days, involving search planes, police officers, rangers, surf lifesavers on jet skis and a drone operator.

A bag of items belonging to the young couple was found at a rock fishing spot near the ocean’s edge on Tuesday evening.

“We have actually completed the highest level of search you can in those locations,” Supt Clarke said.

“So from our perspective there isn’t anything more we can do at this time.

“In the three days we’ve been searching intensively and we completely covered all the areas we have and in some areas we’ve done them three or four times over.”

SES volunteers search the Bald Head Walk track.
Camera IconSES volunteers search the Bald Head Walk track. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The families of Mr Bignell and Ms McCloy were formally notified of the situation by police last night.

“The family as you would expect are devastated by what has happened,” Supt Calrke said.

“We’ve kept them fully involved and fully aware of everything that’s been happening and they’ve been able to come and look closely at what we’ve been doing.

“They were very emotional when they left yesterday, thanking the volunteers that have given up so many hours to come out and search in some potentially very dangerous situations at times.”

Chaplains had been brought in to support the family during their time in Albany.

“We will continue to support them as much as we possibly can,” he said.

Supt Clarke said the search was a big learning curve about the danger and risks associated with the Bald Head peninsula.

He said the couple were familiar with the area, having lived with family in Albany for a few months earlier this year.

Albany Sea Rescue were involved.
Camera IconAlbany Sea Rescue were involved. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Mr Bignell was a keen fisherman.

He urged future visitors to be very cautious and well prepared.

“For us it’s just highlighted the extremely risky nature of the Torndirrup National Park and its extremely rugged country,” he said.

“Make sure you’re well prepared, make sure you’re dressed correctly and if you are going to go to any location that does have a slightly higher risk — do everything you can to make yourself safe.

“If you’re thinking of going rock fishing or anything like that, please wear a life vest.

“The simple use of a life vest can make a huge difference and that’s a huge part of advice for anyone coming down here and going rock fishing.”

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