• The section of the Swan River where the two teenagers drowned following a foot pursuit by police. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The inquest will question whether police had a role in the boys' drowning, after they swam into dangerous conditions to escape pursuit by authorities.
Sarah Collard, Karen Michelmore

The Point
16 Mar 2021 - 9:32 AM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2021 - 12:49 PM

A distressed teenager called “I love you” across Perth’s Swan River while watching two of his friends drown following a police pursuit, an inquest into the event has heard.

Christoper Drage, 16, and Trisjack Simpson, 17, drowned in murky, choppy conditions on the afternoon of September 10, 2018, following a chase on foot by police. 

NITV has named the boys with the permission of their families.

Ahead of the start of an expected five-day inquest, Chris Drage’s mother Winnie Hayward said the family needed answers.

“It’s very important that I know the truth... of the situation, very important,” she said.

“It’s been horrible.”

The inquest will examine whether the actions of police in any way contributed to, or caused the death of the two teenagers.

Counsel assisting the Coroner, Sarah Tyler, told the hearing Drage, Simpson and two friends were running away from police, who suspected them of trespass on nearby homes, immediately before they entered the water.

A nurse who was driving in the area, Peta Furness, testified she saw the teenagers running and was concerned for them as they seemed frightened and possibly drug affected.

Ms Tyler told the court the boys ran across the marsh area and into the water.

One boy successfully made it to the other side and was hanging onto a tree, but was visibly upset and shaking from the cold. He yelled out “I love you” to his friend on the other side of the river, she said.

Samuel Cooper, who watched the incident from his balcony on the other side of the river, said the boys were “obviously exhausted” in the water.

“I could see right away they were in distress,” he told the hearing.

Two Tactical Response Group (TRG) police officers, who had been driving nearby, entered the water to rescue the boys but could not reach them before they disappeared underwater in the challenging conditions, the inquest heard.

“The system failed us"

Trisjack Simpson’s mother Shelley Ninyette told NITV ahead of the hearing that she wanted someone held accountable for her son’s death.

“The system failed us, failed me, failed other black parents before these two boys,” she said.

“This pain and hurt I just can’t explain it. But somebody has got to be accountable for his death.”

Later in the week the court will hear from an academic from the University of WA who has reviewed current WA Police policies and consider whether additional training or procedures could be deployed to improve the relationship between Aboriginal children and police.

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