Marine safety investigations & reports

Technical assistance to AMSA in the examination of electronic evidence from the FV Returner which foundered near Karratha, WA in July 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


On 14 July 2015 the Fishing Vessel “Returner” with three people on board was reported overdue, having not returned to Point Samson, near Karratha, Western Australia. WA Police, in close partnership with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) delegates in WA and the Western Australian Department of Transport (Dot-WA), coordinated search and rescue operations (vessels and aircraft) followed by an extensive vessel sonar search. The vessel was located on the seabed on Wednesday 29 July 2015 approximately 5 nm north east of Karratha at a depth of about 13m. AMSA, WA Police, DoT-WA commenced an operation to raise the vessel from the seabed on 6 September 2015 with the operation being successful.

As part of ongoing investigations into the factors contributing to the sinking of the vessel, AMSA requested technical assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in the recovery of data from GPS units and other electronic items on board. To protect any information supplied by AMSA to the ATSB, and the ATSB's investigative work to assist AMSA, the ATSB initiated an investigation under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

The recovered electronic items were extensively damaged from the duration submerged and because of this, the ATSB sought additional, external expert assistance in the data recovery. While some data was recovered, none of the data was relevant to the investigation.

Enquiries relating to the accident investigation should be directed to AMSA at


General details
Date: 14 July 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
  Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Karratha    
State: Western Australia    
Release date: 06 September 2016   Occurrence category: Technical Analysis  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  
Last update 14 November 2018