Cruise

Man’s death at sea sparks calls for mandatory headcount law

A WA senator is pushing for mandatory headcounts to be carried out on commercial vessels, after a coronial inquest found the measure could have prevented a man from dying.

Damien Mills, a Perth based father of three was on a cruise between Fremantle and Rottnest Island in 2014 when he fell overboard.

WA Water Police Sergeant Michael Wear told a coronial inquest into Mills death it is likely he fell off the boat around 3:30pm but was not reported missing until his wife became worried the next day.

Nine News reported Mills was left to tread water for up to 12 hours before his body was found almost 20 hours later.

WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle is seeking to pass a bill that would force crews to carryout headcounts at the start and end of all voyages on domestic commercial vessels which he believes could have prevented Mills death.

“If that skipper had implemented the headcount that was in his own safety management system the alarm would have gone off one was missing,” he told parliament according to Nine.

“You can fix this minister. You can get a pen and a piece of paper and draft up some legislation to make sure this never happens again.”

Wear told the inquest that there would have been a highly likely chance of finding Mills alive if his absence had been reported sooner.

“I’d give it a fairly high chance that we’d find him,” he said.

The inquest heard that sea conditions were rough, and when one of two larger waves struck the boat it lurched, throwing several passengers who were not holding on around the deck.

The blinds were pulled to enclose a portion of the deck but an area containing an esky by the stern, where Mills was last seen, was left open.

However, WA Liberal senator Dean Smith said the government would not support “Damien’s Law” because it was not “perfect”.

Smith said the bill would remove flexibility from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, preventing the regulator from implementing stronger safety measures in the future.

“When we’re thinking about the safety of people at and on the sea, the legislative response from this chamber should be as perfect as it can be,” he said, according to Nine.

Featured image source: iStock.com/EAGiven

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