Kerry Lee

Vessel Name: Kerry Lee

George Matthew Vladich
Gordan Redford Truscott
Jose Goncalves Faria

Drowned at Sea; Never Found
30 December 1961

Wedding photo of Jose Goncalves Faria and Maria Inocencia Faria

Wedding portrait of Jose Goncalves Faria and Maria Inocencia Faria

Painting of Morning Star at sea

Painting of Morning Star, which took part in the sea search

Jose Goncalves Faria

Jose Goncalves Faria

On 30 December 1961, the cray boat Kerry Lee put out to sea from Jurien Bay to pull cray pots, and by all accounts, move some pots into deeper water as the skipper, George Vladich, had been discussing the better prospects with a fellow fisherman, Peter Sertorio, a short time before.

Onboard were:

  • George Matthew Vladich; Owner/Skipper, 42 years old of Swan Street, Osborne Park, married
  • Gordan Redford Truscott; Crew, 40 years old of 9 Lapsley Street, Claremont, married
  • Jose Goncalves Faria; Crew, Portuguese, 29 years old of East Street, East Fremantle, married

On 30 December 1961, the Kerry Lee was reported as fishing in an area approximately eight miles from Escape Island (16 miles from Jurien Bay) in very rough seas. The Kerry Lee normally docked by 3pm, but at 10pm a message was received by the Commissioner of Police that a fishing boat was missing off the coast of Jurien Bay, and the Kerry Lee had not returned.

No one saw the Kerry Lee leave the mooring, but George’s Landrover was parked on the beach and his dinghy was tied on the boat’s mooring, which was normal practice.

Ross International Fisheries advised on the 31 December about 1.30pm, that a search of the area had been made by an aeroplane and a fishing boat, Morning Star, with no results. A further search by the plane resulted in a report around 7pm that an oil slick had been sighted near where the cray pots belonging to the missing vessel were buoyed.

As a result of this information, a police diving team consisting of four constables was taken out on 1 January 1962, onboard the Pacific Star, owned by Leslie Bolitho, to where the oil slick was seen. However, the waters were between 200 and 600 feet deep, far too deep for the divers to operate.

The search continued by police 20 miles north and 30 miles south of Jurien Bay with no result.

The cray pots belonging to the Kerry Lee were recovered by the Pacific Star and the Morning Star on 4 January 1962, and brought into Jurien Bay. It was thought that there were 30 to 35 pots missing, which indicated that the Kerry Lee was probably loaded up with these pots heading for deeper water.

Vladich had been accustomed to carrying around 30 pots on his boat at a time. It was established that being wet, the pots would have weighed in the vicinity of 1.5 tons and would have been stacked in every available space on the deck and wheelhouse of the boat.

The boat, travelling in this way in a very heavy sea (reported to be a strong southerly breeze blowing) would be open to capsizing, especially if travelling broadside to the sea, which investigations appeared to indicate could have been the course set by the skipper.

No wreckage was ever found from the Kerry Lee. Peter Sertorio, skipper of the Morning Star, and Leslie Bolitho skipper of the Pacific Star, both experienced skippers, stated that “in the area where the Kerry Lee is believed to have sunk there is a very strong tide running north to south, and in their opinion nothing would blow ashore unless there was a very heavy blow or a storm.”

This could possibly explain why the bodies of the three men were never washed ashore, or any wreckage, or flotsam, from the boat ever retrieved.

Leslie Bolitho lived next door to George Vladich and had sold him the Kerry Lee, having named the vessel after his daughter, Kerry Lee Bolitho.

National Archives of Australia show records that Jose Gonclaves Faria arrived by aircraft into Perth on 21 October 1960. A grand-daughter of Jose, Michelle Faria, recounts that he came from Paul do Mar in Madeira, Portugal. His wife, Maria Inocencia Faria, was eight months pregnant when Jose was lost at sea, later giving birth to a son, Jose Manuel Faria.

Jose Manuel was an only child and went on to be quite well known in the Fremantle and Portuguese community, having owned Tarantella Nightclub, a huge part of the Fremantle Benfica Soccer Club and a part of the committee that helped start Perth Glory.

Michelle recalls that the Perth Glory played their first game in memory of her dad at Fremantle Oval, and that he also won the 1996 Citizen of the Year award in Fremantle.

Sadly, Jose Manuel Faria passed away on 23 December 1995, after being involved in a car accident, ironically the same age as his father when he was lost at sea.

Maria, wife of Jose Gonclaves Faria, passed away in 2019. One can only imagine her heartache at losing both her husband and son at the very early age of 33.