The death of a mortgage broker while on a networking cruise has demonstrated the importance of rigid workplace health and safety procedures for all business operators.
WA coroner Sarah Linton said that 35-year-old Damien Mills was last seen alive on 31 October 2014, when he was a passenger on a charter boat trip organised by specialist lender Pepper.
He reportedly attended the event alone, and did not know any of the other guests.
Mr Mills was reported missing the following day by his wife when he failed to return home. His body was found several hours later in the water, near the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour.
Coroner Linton ruled the death was an accidental drowning, which was likely the result of rough conditions on the journey back.
However she said that while accidental, Mr Mills’ death may be have been avoided.
“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. While his death was an accident, there was evidence that it may have been preventable if his disappearance had been identified sooner,” the coroner said in handing down her findings.
“If a proper process of headcounts had been done, with correct numbers taken at the start and end of the charter, it would have been noted that a passenger was missing and hopefully an investigation into the identity of the person, and a search for them could have been started much sooner and perhaps saved a life.”
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.”
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