Missing fisherman Jeffrey Doyle likely drowned after trying to fix boat’s propeller, coroner says
Jeffrey Doyle had safety equipment on board his boat but did not call for help. (Supplied: Binningup Surf Life Saving Club)
A missing WA fisherman likely drowned at sea after trying to remove rope that was tangled around the propeller of his boat, a coronial inquest has been told.
Jeffrey Doyle, 61, was last seen alive on the evening of October 16, 2016, just before he set off from the Bunbury yacht club to go fishing. He did not tell anyone where he was going.
Mr Doyle used his mobile phone to contact his wife and a member of the yacht club the following day to say he was returning home, but he never arrived and was reported missing on October 19.
An extensive air and sea search failed to find any trace of him, before on October 28 — 12 days after he set off — his cabin cruiser was found washed up on a beach near Cervantes, about 300 kilometres away.
Investigating police officer, Sergeant Laurie Stubbs, said rope was found tangled around the boat’s propeller, and it appeared Mr Doyle, who was known by his family and friends as “Mr Fixit”, decided to try to remove it himself.
Mr Doyle’s boat was found washed ashore near Cervantes 12 days after he set off. (ABC News: Kathryn Diss)
Sergeant Stubbs said that was despite Mr Doyle having safety equipment on board his boat — including a radio and two registered EPIRBs as well as his mobile telephone — that he could have used to call for help.
The inquest also heard the weather conditions at the time Mr Doyle was at sea were not favourable, with westerly winds blowing around 19 kilometres per hour.
Sergeant Stubbs said there had been no contact from or sightings of Mr Doyle since October 2016, and he had also not accessed his bank accounts.
‘Pretty clear’ what happened, coroner says
Coroner Barry King said he was likely to find that Mr Doyle’s death was the result of an accident.
“It does seem pretty clear that he is dead and that he has drowned, or been hurt and probably drowned, as a result of looking at the propeller and trying to cut the rope,” he said.
Mr Doyle’s wife Julie and his daughter Erin were in the coroner’s court for the inquest, and Mrs Doyle said afterwards she hoped a message would be sent to other boaties to use their safety equipment when necessary.
“I don’t think any of them would want to put the ones they love through such an ordeal,” she said.