THE last time Esmeraldo San Juan was seen alive he was pulling on a life jacket with reflector stripes to go fishing at Munmorah’s notorious Snapper Point.
He has not been seen alive since 7pm on March 19, 2016, after a short conversation with a friend who had been fishing but called it a night because of the big waves.
On Tuesday Deputy State Coroner Elizabeth Ryan found Mr San Juan died on that night at Snapper Point, but the absence of a body meant she could not confirm how he died.
Two human bones found in the months after he disappeared were highly likely to be his, Ms Ryan found, after tests of his daughter’s DNA showed a high probability they were related.
The inquest heard Mr San Juan was a gentle man in a happy and stable relationship and with no financial difficulties.
Chief Inspector Rodney Peet of Tuggerah Lakes Local Area Command, who has coordinated more than 10 searches for people swept into the water in Lake Munmorah State Conservation Area, said 17 people had been swept off rocks at Snapper Point since 2010.
One in three of their bodies were not recovered, he said.
Although there is very limited phone coverage on the rock platform, Inspector Peet told the inquest that most phones without coversage are still able to access the 000 emergency facility.
The Snapper Point rock shelf is particularly dangerous for fishermen because it is surrounded by steep cliffs which allows large volumes of water to submerge the entire platform when there are heavy seas, Inspector Peet said.
“The rock shelf also has a large crevice at its base which can cause it to be inundated from the rear, taking fishermen by surprise, especially when it is dark,” Ms Ryan said.
Inspector Peet said a memorial for fishermen who had died at Snapper Point, which included a plaque for Mr San Juan, was a sobering reminder for anyone who attempted to fish from the site.