Widow wants to see change after losing partner at sea

AFTER waiting for three years, two desperate Bundaberg families are starting to have answers as to what happened the fateful night their loved husbands and fathers perished in the ocean near Fraser Island.

Skipper Matt Roberts, 61, and crewman David Chivers, 36, were tragically lost at sea on April 4 ,2016 as a fishing boat they were working on sank.

They had been trawling for prawns when the FV Cassandra overturned at about 3am.

Now as the matter rests in the hands of the coroner, David's wife Lyn Chivers struggles to share how she feels.

"I don't think I could truly put into words the feelings and emotions that I have felt," Mrs Chivers said.

She says nothing could change what happened to either of their loved ones, but she hopes changes will be made to the fishing industry.

"I would like to see some changes made to the fishing industry to make it safer so other families don't ever have to go through the heartache that I have had to go through," Mrs Chivers said.

"We should be able to send our husbands or family members to work and expect that they will come home safely."

During the inquest, experts gave evidence about whether future deaths could be prevented by making it compulsory for fishermen to wear life jackets while working.

ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Lyn Chivers at the memorial ceremony for Matthew Roberts and David Chivers who were tragically lost at sea on 4 April 2016.
ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Lyn Chivers at the memorial ceremony for Matthew Roberts and David Chivers who were tragically lost at sea on 4 April 2016. Mike Knott BUN231016CASSANDRA15

The fishermen may have died after a simple turnbuckle broke when their net snagged, rolling their prawn trawler in dark, heavy seas.

Naval architect Doug Matchett told the inquest ropes and rigging stowed near the Cassandra's life rafts could have stopped them launching as designed when the boat rolled.

"Certainly that should be a free area around the life raft," he told the Gladstone inquest on Wednesday.

Despite carrying the correct safety equipment, none of it worked.

Neither of the two emergency radio beacons were activated and the two automatically deploying life rafts remain on the boat, found in 47 metres of water - too deep for divers - off the northern tip of Fraser Island.

Mrs Chivers said the last few weeks leading up to the inquest had been an emotional roller coaster.

"I have tried to absorb the information of the events that have occurred," she said.

"Yes it definitely has been hard.

"I have been able to gain an understanding from an expert's point of view, of what they believe happened, but on a personal level it's entirely different."

In October 2016 a memorial ceremony was held for the Bundaberg men.

At the time Mrs Chivers said she had made peace with the fact her husband was never coming home.

Lyn Chivers recalled, with a smile on her face and holding back the tears, the moments when she met and fell in love with the "gentle giant" eight years ago.

"He was a lovely caring man who would do anything and everything for anyone," she said at the time.

"People knew him as the gentle giant because he was very tall and always helping."

The inquest continues.