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
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
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