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Today we pause to remember the souls lost aboard HMAS WESTRALIA.

Our thoughts are also with those that survived, having made hard and correct decisions about protecting the lives of the survivors. We note that decisions made in procurement and in the management of industrial partners are important.


At about 1035, fire broke out in the main machinery space. Personnel saw the fire start on the outboard side of the starboard main engine. A “woofing” sound was heard in the machinery control room and a flame and black smoke appeared through a cable duct near an urn on the port side.


HMAS Westralia was approximately 20 km off the Western Australian Coast, near Rottnest Island, at the time of the incident. It was carrying a crew of 98. The engine room was drenched with carbon dioxide to isolate the fire and prevent it from reaching the 20,000 tonnes of highly flammable fuel on board. Four sailors were killed by acute smoke inhalation (carbon monoxide poisoning) within five minutes of the fire starting. Nine people required treatment for injuries, although many more suffered smoke inhalation.


A fire report was made to the bridge and emergency stations was sounded. A brief inspection of the main machinery space through the door of the machinery control room revealed thick black smoke and flames. Visibility was severely limited. Four people escaped from the main machinery space into the machinery control room. Three of the personnel were injured and were initially treated by the ship’s emergency medical organisation and later assisted by medical staff from SUCCESS, STIRLING and the Sea Training Group.


The fire was intense, causing rapid smoke build up and extreme heat. Despite some heroic but unsuccessful firefighting efforts, the atmosphere in the main machinery space soon became inadequate to support life.



A flexible fuel hose in the ship's engine room burst. The spraying fuel ignited when it came into contact with hot machinery, and the first-response extinguishers were unable to cope with the fire's intensity. It took two hours for the fire to be extinguished, and four sailors died from carbon monoxide poisoning.


A Board of Inquiry reported in December that a different type of hose inappropriate for an engine-room environment was fitted, the civilian contractors that fitted the hose had not passed the configuration changes to the Lloyd's Register classification society as required, and that personnel aboard Westralia did not have the training and qualifications required for their responsibilities.

A Coroner’s Court Inquest and a Royal Australian Navy Board of Inquiry found that the fire and subsequent deaths were caused by failings in the machinery and the actions of the company contracted to maintain it.


Midshipman Megan Anne Pelly L154029

Date of Birth 8 December 1975

– Died accidentally from acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the main machinery space of HMAS WESTRALIA off the coast of Western Australia in the vicinity of Perth at approximately 1045 on 5 May 98.


Petty Officer Shaun Damian Smith S138258

Date of Birth 27 November 1968

- Died accidentally from acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the main machinery space of HMAS WESTRALIA off the coast of Western Australia in the vicinity of Perth at approximately 1045 on 5 May 98.


Leading Seaman Bradley John Meek S147321

Date of Birth 16 July 1972

- Died accidentally from acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the main machinery space of HMAS WESTRALIA off the coast of Western Australia in the vicinity of Perth at approximately 1045 on 5 May 98.


Able Seaman Phillip John Carroll S155254

Date of Birth 17 June 1974

- Died accidentally from acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the main machinery space of HMAS WESTRALIA off the coast of Western Australia in the vicinity of Perth at approximately 1045 on 5 May 98.

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CONSULTING & BUSINESS ADVISORY 

PO Box 292 Brunswick East. Vic. Australia. 3057

+61 3 9078 6938

Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra

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Anywise acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate.

We also pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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