Walpole: Police reveal no one saw missing boy enter water at Fernhook Falls as search enters third day

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Sarah StegerThe West Australian
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VideoThe search for a missing eight-year-old boy, who is believed to have fallen out of a boat during a family camping trip in the South West, enters its third day

Police involved in the desperate search for an eight-year-old boy who went missing on a family camping trip north of Walpole on Sunday have revealed no one actually saw the child enter the water.

It comes despite teams of State Emergency Services volunteers, local authorities and police divers continuing to focus their search efforts on a section of Deep River, in Mt Frankland National Park.

Great Southern Police District Superintendent Kim Travers told the ABC this morning that four police divers were today searching Fernhook Falls and the basin at the popular spot, but that poor visibility caused by yesterday’s rainfall was slowing efforts.

“There’s a lot of tannin in the water, it’s a tea colour, visibility is quite low,” Supt Travers said.

“We have a boat on top of the water in the basin at the bottom of falls going around the edge coordinating with the drone.”

She said the waterway remained the focus of the search and rescue mission, despite declining to elaborate what occurred prior to the boy’s disappearance.

Previously, all police have said was that there was some kind of “boating incident”.

There was heavy rainfall overnight in the Walpole area.
Camera IconThere was heavy rainfall overnight in the Walpole area. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

“We’re not going into the actual circumstances leading to him being missing,” she said.

“Bearing in mind no-one saw him enter the water … we’re completing a deliberate and methodical search of the area where we believe the boy could be.”

Supt Travers said while rescuers remained optimistic and positive, and their morale remained high, the child’s family — who it’s been revealed own a cabin at the waterfall — were anxious.

“As the days go on their anxiety levels are quite high,” she said of the family, who are from the South West region.

Police divers on the scene at the lower pool of Fernhook Falls on Tuesday afternoon.
Camera IconPolice divers on the scene at the lower pool of Fernhook Falls on Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

“The extended family arrived yesterday to provide support and there's a large group of friends around them.”

“(But) it’s very much that morale (among rescuers) is high because it’s a child. The motivation is very high particularly when it’s a child involved.

“Officers, SES on scene have children. Children that age — it’s quite difficult.”

Local police, about 60 State Emergency Services volunteers, police divers, a drone and police air-wing entered their third day of the search at first light today after suspending the rescue operation last night.

Some of the rapids at Fernhook Falls.
Camera IconSome of the rapids at Fernhook Falls. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

So far, their efforts have been hampered by dense bush and fast-flowing creeks and waters, with poor phone reception in the area adding to the already-difficult operation.

Today Supt Travers said the “search area is really quite inhospitable, and whilst it is quite rugged it is quite beautiful”.

Premier Mark McGowan this morning spoke of the search, saying it was “very sad”.

“I wish them all the very best in finding the little boy and obviously everyone’s thoughts go to the family,” he said.

A police drone searching the area.
Camera IconA police drone searching the area. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Fernhook Falls is one of two waterfalls that form part of the 120km Deep River.

The camp site is within the national park, which is promoted as a hotspot for canoeing, kayaking and bush walks through woodland, particularly from April to November.

The site has two camping huts and eight tent sites for visitors.

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