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Old 07-29-2010
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Inquest finds yacht name mix-up causes sailor's death

Dunno how I missed this in the Sydney Morning Herald only a few days ago - just busy I guess - but there's a warning in there for all of us.

I guess it's that if you're in trouble, use an EPIRB - don't relay on the radio.


Two experienced sailors had been dead for up to 12 days by the time a search party was sent to find them, after a radio operator muddled up similar-sounding yacht names, a coroner has found.

Good mates Bruce Nicholas Glasson, 58, and Graeme Eric Woodhouse, 60, went missing on Mr Glasson's yacht Blessed Be, in the South Pacific Ocean somewhere off the coast of northern NSW and southern Queensland in August 2008. Neither the yacht nor the men have ever been found.

The pair, who were sailing the 41-foot (12.5 metre) vessel from Tahiti to Brisbane, last made radio contact on August 23 with Adelaide-based volunteer Coast Radio. Mr Glasson reported the weather was rough and that Blessed Be had been "knocked down" but the vessel and crew was "okay", the inquest into the pair's disappearance was told on Monday. Four days later and with no further contact, a friend of the men's families made inquiries with authorities.

Queensland's Seaway tower at Southport reported the men had made radio contact and were en route to Newcastle where they expected to arrive on September 4. When the Blessed Be failed to meet that deadline, authorities realised that Seaway tower had heard from a yacht called Placid Sea, not the Blessed Be. On September 5 an extensive but unsuccessful seven-day search began for the Blessed Be and its crew, covering more than 800 nautical miles between Bundaberg in Queensland and Newcastle in NSW.

"It is anticipated (that) concerns with the delays in commencing the operation of the search may be an issue of concern," counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Greg Robinson told Sydney's Glebe coroner's court on Monday.

However, Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon said there was no firm evidence to suggest that if the search had begun earlier, it would have saved the lives of Mr Glasson, from Uralla in northern NSW, and Mr Woodhouse, from Riverview in Sydney.

"I cannot make a finding that had the search for them commenced earlier that they would have been found in sufficient time to ensure their safety," Mr MacMahon said. "... whilst it is unfortunate that the wrong information was given ... and did not come to the attention of the search and rescue people until later on, it does not seem to me that the evidence can support that those matters contributed to the death of Mr Glasson and Mr Woodhouse."

Mr MacMahon found that both men died on or about August 23 and that the Blessed Be sank. "As to the manner and cause of death, the evidence available does not allow me to make a finding," he added. Family members and friends attended Monday's inquest and some were unhappy that a recommendation was not made.

"My observation of the search and rescue was that there was a lack of coordination of relevant and crucial information," friend and former crew member of the Blessed Be, Garry Palmer, told AAP outside the court.


Sailors would have died anyway: coroner
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