'Pray to everyone for the return of my nephew': Rescued fisherman's wife

- WA Today

The search for a missing fisherman off the coast of Leeman where another fisherman was dramatically rescued from shark-infested waters on Friday has been called off due to bad weather.

Sean Coffey, 23, has not been found more than 48 hours since the boat he and two others were fishing on capsized after it was smashed by two massive waves in waters off Leeman, 270 kilometres north of Perth.

His friend Bryce Weppner, 24, was pulled from the water on Friday afternoon but was later declared dead.

Mr Coffey's uncle, 49-year-old Kim Thomsen, was rescued alive but exhausted about midday on Friday and remains in hospital after suffering from hypothermia.

As he desperately struggled to stay afloat, it is believed the naked man was unaware that a large hammerhead shark was circling him about 20 metres away.

His wife, Michelle Thomsen, has been keeping family and friends up-to-date on his recovery and the rescue effort for Mr Coffey via Facebook.

"Please keep everything crossed and pray to everyone you can think for the return [of] my nephew," she posted on her profile yesterday afternoon.

"So relieved that my naked fisherman was found and still praying for my nephew will be found safe and sound."

Mrs Thomsen also said she was happy her husband, who is Danish, had been found and thanked search and rescuers.

Today, a spokesman from Royal Perth Hospital said while Mr Thomsen's condition was stable, he is not expected to be discharged for at least another 24 hours.

"He's sleeping very soundly. Would be exhausted after swimming for 20 hours," Mrs Thomsen said yesterday.

"Never thought I would love the sound of his snoring as much as I do right now."

The younger men were friends and it is understood they both worked in the mining sector.

Mr Weppner, of Forrestfield, was a passionate fishermen and owned his own boat. It is not known whether it was the one that sank.

On the online fishing forum, a Leeman user named 'BigSpinna' said he was "a top bloke".

"[He] Had many friends on our crew and was a skilled worker for his age. Had the pleasure of working with him a few times. Was with him on a loader shut only last week. The news has shattered many guys up here, such a shame and a true tragedy. RIP Bryce," 'BigSpinna' wrote.

Facebook user David Jenkins posted this message: "What a sad day it is for the Pilbara and his family everyone is thinking of you Rip Bryce Weppner."

The trio, all from Perth, set out in a 5.5-metre fishing boat from Leeman about 11am on Thursday.

Mr Thomsen has told police the boat became swamped by waves, tossing them into the water about 3.30pm that day.

The alarm was raised when they did not return by nightfall.

The men spent the night at sea. Mr Thomsen and Mr Coffey had been battling the ocean for about 20 hours when they were rescued.

Police say that an aircraft and a vessel will continue the search, weather permitting, tomorrow.

- with Pamela Mirghani


Search for missing fisherman called off

STAFF REPORTERS with AAP, The West Australian Updated August 12, 2012, 5:10 pm

UPDATE 5.10pm: Police have called off a search for a 23-year-old recreational fisherman who has been lost off the north-west coast for two nights.

A weather warning for Perth and the South West has forced search vessels to return to shore.

"I can confirm the search for Sean Coffey off the coast of Leeman has been called off due to current weather conditions," police spokeswoman Susan Usher said.

"Weather permitting tomorrow, one aircraft and one vessel will continue the search."

The weather warning meant that an air search could not be conducted this morning when boats set out to search for Mr Coffey, 23, along the coast.

Hopes are rapidly fading that he will be found alive, after he and two others were knocked by waves off their 5.5m fishing vessel about 3.30pm on Thursday off the coast of Leeman, 270km north of Perth.

His friend Bryce Weppner, also aged 23, was pulled unconscious from the water by rescuers shortly after noon on Friday, but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was declared dead.

Mr Coffey's 49-year-old uncle Kim Thomsen was rescued about half an hour earlier after a Seven News helicopter saw him floating on his back, naked and being circled by a 3.5m hammerhead shark about 20m away.

The news crew alerted rescuers and in the meantime the helicopter flew low to scare the shark away.

Mr Thomsen was flown to Perth and was treated for hypothermia at Royal Perth Hospital. He was discharged from hospital late this morning, according to reports.

It is understood that Mr Thomsen, who is extremely fatigued after his ordeal, wanted to join the search for his nephew. Although doctors had given him the all-clear, he was told he needed to rest.

Yesterday, Water Police and volunteer marine rescue services from around the Leeman area took part in the search operation.

The search focused on an area north of Beagle Island, which is home to the biggest population of Australian sea lions.


Leeman fishing trip survivor Kim Thomsen wants closure from coronial inquest

THE sole survivor of a fishing trip that went horribly wrong hopes a coronial inquest will give him a chance to say farewell to the nephew he lost in the accident.

Kim Thomsen was found floating naked and being circled by a large hammerhead shark in the ocean off Leeman, some 300km north of Perth on the West Australian coast, on August 10 last year after spending 19 hours in the water.

He had been on a fishing trip with his nephew Sean Coffey, 23, and Sean's 24-year-old friend Bryce Weppner when a freak five-metre wave overturned the boat, flinging them into the water.

All three were not wearing a lifejacket, and flares and the EPIRB (distress radio beacon) were still on-board.

They were about to swim underneath the boat to retrieve the EPIRB when a second wave struck, sinking the vessel.

Before Mr Thomsen and Mr Weppner could respond, Mr Coffey said he would attempt to swim to shore and made for the northern end of the Beagle Islands, a sea lion breeding colony.

He was never seen again.

In a dramatic televised rescue, a Seven News helicopter spotted Mr Thomsen floating on his back, making a praying gesture and imploring the TV chopper crew to help.

Marine rescue crews then took over and brought him to land.

But it was too late for Mr Weppner, who had drowned.

The WA Coroners Court was told Mr Coffey may have been attacked by a great white shark, which preyed on sea lions in the area.

He also may have drowned after becoming entangled in seaweed, or succumbed to exhaustion or a head injury he suffered when the boat flipped.

His death may have been a combination of all of the above, the court heard.

The coroner will hand down his findings at a date to be announced next week.

Outside court, Mr Thomsen said the family hoped the inquest would bring closure.

"We'll be able to say goodbye to Sean,'' he said.

Asked whether he would have done things differently, Mr Thomsen said: "Of course''.