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Mum of three’s burning query: ‘Why was my husband left to drown?’

Nicole Mills wants answers.

Almost five years after her husband’s body was found in the ocean about 5km off a Perth beach, she cannot explain why no one has been held responsible for his death.

Damien Mills who fell overboard while on a Rottnest Island charter boat, should not have died. A coronial inquest was told that Mr Mills had a 99.9 per cent chance of being found alive if police knew he had fallen from the charter boat,Ten-Sixty-Six.

Instead, he was in the ocean for up to 12 hours, treading water waiting for a rescue that never came.

Water police found him stripped down to his underwear, proof that he fought for his life.

For Mrs Mills the tragedy left her without a husband and a father to their three children.

But that pain is compounded by a lack of answers as to what happened, and why no one has been held to account.

The charter company Dolphin Dive Centre and skipper Daniel Lippiatt were not charged or fined for any safety breaches.

Damien Mills.Damien Mills.
Camera IconDamien Mills.Picture: Facebook

Despite the inquest finding a headcount of passengers was not carefully conducted, no breach of law was identified.

This month, a Senate inquiry will probe the actions of the country’s safety regulator, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in response to Mr Mills’ death.

“I find it very hard to live with what has happened,” Mrs Mills told The West Australian.

“If the wrong thing has been done, nothing happens? That is concerning to me. It is just unbelievable, this is unbelievable.”

Mrs Mills said she wanted those involved, including the regulator, held to account, and to ensure changes were made in the industry so that the tragedy was not repeated.

“As a mum and a wife it is unbearable to live with, and that is why, hand on heart, I don’t want it to happen again,” she said.

“I just don’t want somebody else to feel the pain of waking up every day without their husband, and looking at my children knowing there was a 99.9 per cent chance that he could have been found alive.”

Mr Mills’ father, Richard, said the family was “gobsmacked” that AMSA did not lay any charges.

“If this was a traffic accident, there would have been repercussions for actions, there would have been charges laid and it is quite clear that if a head count was conducted carefully on the day … Damien would have been found, and there are no consequence for that,” he said.

“That is why we are still here and we are still fighting.

“None of this will bring Damien back, but we can’t let this go without somebody being held accountable.”

The Senate inquiry will begin its hearings in Perth on March 21.

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