John Laverack: Tributes pour in for ‘fit’ Kalbarri windsurfer at one with nature
The windsurfer who died in monstrous surf conditions at Kalbarri last week is being remembered as a “friendly” and “unique” local character who loved his dogs and nature, but wasn’t known to be reckless on the water.
Human remains discovered on Thursday were on Saturday confirmed to belong to 72-year-old John Laverack after forensic tests. He had vanished before desperate rescuers could get to him on Wednesday during gale-force winds.
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The elderly but “fit” retiree was known by locals for his active nature around Kalbarri — fixing dunes, weeding and picking up rubbish around town, and kite surfing in the river almost every day, always followed by one of the many dogs he owned over the past two decades.
“He was friendly but sort of kept to himself ... he fixed things for people and he really loved his dogs,” neighbour Ashley van Viersen said.
“He normally went down to where the commercial boats are and windsurf across that part of the river. Why he was there that day, I don’t know. It was unusual for him to be (at the river mouth).
He was a very unique character. . . we’ll be very (sad) not to see him.
“I reckon he was somebody who would assess (the conditions) ... he wasn’t an idiot sort of waiting until it was really wild and chancing it.”
“He was an ex-ranger, so we all got to know him that way,” neighbour Mark said. “He was pretty well liked, would always give you a bit of a wave.”
“He was a very unique character,” another neighbour, Martin, said. “He made our wind vane for us ... out of bits of old fans and whipper snippers, it has spoons hanging off it ... that was a bit of a hobby, making his little sculptures and stuff ... we’ll be very (sad) not to see him.”
A frantic rescue effort was launched when Mr Laverack was last seen falling from his board near the Murchison River mouth by marine rescue volunteers, but they lost sight of him before he could be rescued. Bad weather conditions plagued the search effort, with Mid West Gascoyne District Insp. Dave Hooper saying search vessels were “almost overturned” by waves, before they were withdrawn.
A WA Police spokesperson said Mr Laverack’s family had been notified of the development and requested privacy during this tough time.
On Thursday, Mr Laverack’s daughter Kylie Edward described her father as a man passionate about his town and nature.
“Obviously, I’m very appreciative of the rescue people involved in his search and the effort put in by helping ... a lot of his town’s people have reached out, which is very touching,” she said.
Local police have continued to patrol the coastline and beaches, with out-of-town resources retiring and the water search concluded.
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