Walpole search: Missing boy heard crying for help before Fernhook Falls disappearance

Daryna ZadvirnaThe West Australian
VideoA missing eight-year-old boy is believed to have fallen out of a boat during a family camping tip at Fernhook Falls near Walpole

An eight-year-old boy who police believe may have drowned near a campsite in the Great Southern was heard crying out for help before his kayak, paddle and jumper were found in the river.

A desperate search was launched after the child was last seen on Sunday morning at the Fernhook Falls campsite near Walpole.

However the search operation officially turned into a recovery mission this morning.

Police have today revealed the tragic circumstances leading to the boy’s disappearance, while vowing to leave “no stone unturned” in bringing his “traumatised” family closure.

Great Southern District Superintendent Kim Travers said the boy — whose identification has been withheld as requested by his family — was “a very good swimmer and had “good bush skills”.

SES and police will resume their recovery mission for the boy this morning.
Camera IconSES and police will resume their recovery mission for the boy this morning. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

It was the second day of the family’s camping trip and he had spent the morning kayaking in Rouse Pool before returning back to the campsite with an idea, according to Supt Travers.

“He was just having fun,” she said.

“He started talking to his brother about how good it would be to kayak across ‘the chute’ which is a short, sharp rapid.

“But his brother had advised him that it was too dangerous and he had taken that advice.”

Supt Travers said the boy then spotted a large pool of foam collecting at the bottom of the river and decided to paddle his kayak through it.

“What appears to have happened — nobody actually saw this part of the incident — the brother had heard (the boy) cry out for help and immediately rushed down (to his aid),” she said.

However when the 12-year-old got to the bottom of the track he saw the little blue kayak wedged under a log the children used to walk across the river — with his younger brother nowhere in sight.

A dog involved in the search for the eight-year-old boy has been missing since Sunday morning.
Camera IconA dog involved in the search for the eight-year-old boy has been missing since Sunday morning. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

By the time he had run back to the campsite to alert his parents the boat had dislodged and was found at the bottom of the rapids.

Supt Travers said the boy’s dad immediately jumped into the water to try find his son but all he located was his little blue jumper wedged in some rocks.

“We’re reasonably sure that at that point in time he entered the water in that area,” she said.

“We don’t believe he has survived this.”

While conducting a land search in case the boy managed to get out of the river, the State Emergency Services found his paddle several kilometres from where his jumper was found.

“We’re reasonably comfortable that he had not self rescued,” Supt Travers said.

“It is an ongoing search, we have not stopped searching … the family have been advised it is now in the recovery phase.”

The Great Southern superintendent said “state of the art” police technology arrived at the scene this morning to help with the search.

She said it was too dangerous for police divers to enter some of the fast-moving parts of the rapids and the technology will be used to search the water instead.

“The family have been incredibly trusting of all the search efforts,” Supt Travers said.

“They have a high level of trust in us to do our job

“They are a loving, caring and very close family and this is a significant trauma for them.”

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