Walpole search: Police call off land search for missing eight-year-old boy

Michael Traill & Ben LoughranThe West Australian
The search for a missing eight-year-old at Fernhook Falls enters its third day.
Camera IconThe search for a missing eight-year-old at Fernhook Falls enters its third day. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The family of an eight-year-old boy lost deep in WA’s south west are “grieving” after police tragically called off their large-scale land search.

Inspector Glenn Spencer said State Emergency Service volunteers have “exhausted” their search options surrounding a site the boys family were camping at, inside the Mt Frankland National Park, north of Walpole.

Insp. Spencer said the area’s notorious waterways would now become authorities’ sole focus.

The search for a missing eight-year-old at Fernhook Falls enters its third day. Police divers and SES from the Great Southern and South West are on scene. There was heavy rainfall overnight in the Walpole area.
Camera IconThe search for a missing eight-year-old at Fernhook Falls enters its third day. Police divers and SES from the Great Southern and South West are on scene. There was heavy rainfall overnight in the Walpole area. Credit: Kelsey Reid

“This afternoon we made the critical decision to suspend our land search operations for the missing boy,” he said.

“The magnificent efforts of the SES have exhausted all of our search opportunities.

So for the coming days we’ll be focusing our search in and on the water.

Insp. Spencer said the boys family were now “grieving” and are “well supported by friends and family and doing as best as can be expected” in such difficult circumstances.

The boy is believed to have fallen out of a boat during the family’s camping trip before being declared missing on Sunday.

The area is known for its fast-flowing creeks and rivers.

“The search on the land was based on if the little boy had self-rescued. . . the SES have searched 600 metres either side of the (water) bank and about a kilometre downstream,” Insp. Spencer said.

“They’ve maximised every opportunity that we have to locate the boy on land so we’re confident we can now focus our efforts to the water.”

Insp Spencer conceded there was little hope of finding the little boy alive.

“We’re still looking for the young boy, the probability is that he won’t be alive, but we are still searching,” he said.

For the rest of the search operation, police divers will be trudging on their “hands and knees” in low visibility, fast moving water trying to find the boy.

“The water is very high flowing and there’s lots of obstructions, very turbulent water and a tumultuous ground,” Insp. Spencer said.

“Lots of rocks, lots of logs and very low visibility within 30 centimetres of, it is hands and knees searching and they can barely see.”

Emergency crews at the search area today.
Camera IconEmergency crews at the search area today. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Earlier today police involved in the desperate search for the eight-year-old boy said 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.”

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