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Coroner calls for better training and safety improvements after Queensland scuba-diving deaths

Coroner calls for better training and safety improvements after Queensland scuba-diving deaths
May 31, 2018

A Coroner’s report into the scuba-diving deaths of two tourists in the Whitsundays could have been avoided if better training for beginners was provided.

An inquest into one of the deaths heard evidence that the diving industry's safety codes were rarely enforced and instructors often failed to follow guidelines.

British tourist Bethany Farrell, aged 23, drowned while on an introductory scuba dive with tour company Wings Diving Adventures at Hayman Island's Blue Pearl Bay in 2015.

The inquest found she panicked after becoming separated from her diving group and was unable to maintain positive buoyancy before help arrived. She was found on the ocean floor an hour later.

Queensland Coroner David O'Connell made 12 recommendations, saying they were vital changes for the industry to prevent future deaths.

They included reducing the introductory dive instructor ratio to two-to-one, and one-to-one if there was a strong current, low visibility or choppy water.

He recommended introductory divers remained at arm's distance to their instructor at all times and be forced to link arms if conditions deteriorated.

The inquest heard these were key failings and causes for the backpacker becoming separated on the day of her dive, followed by her lack of training with equipment that could have saved her life.

The Coroner said new divers needed to be better trained before going out into open water, and said instructors were the ones who should make the final decision on whether a dive goes ahead — not a skipper or tour operator.

Coroner O'Connell said the death shared similarities to another tourist death in the Whitsundays, that of 23-year-old Irish backpacker Elaine Morrow, who died four years earlier.

The inquest heard that despite numerous safety codes existing in the diving industry, it was rare for them to be enforced.

Witness and former dive instructor Senior Constable James Hall said it was common for instructors to break guidelines.

Coroner Connell recommended the codes be made more than guidelines and become a mandated minimum standard.

However Al Grundy from the Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association said Queensland was a "world leader" in diving safety, and the marine tourism industry "prides itself on high standards and best practice".

Grundy told the ABC “this has been an absolute tragedy for all involved.”

Coroner O'Connell also recommended that the Queensland Dive and Snorkelling Death Review Panel be reinstated, having ceased in July 2017, due to "persistent understaffing and lack of backfilling".

Image: Bethany Farrell before her death while diving on the Whitsundays in 2015. Courtesy of Patrick and Caron Farrell. 

7th February 2018 - NEW SNORKELLING AND DIVING CODE OF PRACTICE NOW IN FORCE IN QUEENSLAND

13th August 2017 - REVISED RECREATIONAL SNORKELLING CODE OF PRACTICE UNVEILED FOR QUEENSLAND

9th August 2017 - AUSTRALIA’S GREAT OUTDOORS NEEDS TO BE MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR NATURE-BASED TOURISM 

7th March 2017 - QUEENSLAND TO UPDATE RECREATIONAL DIVING AND SNORKELLING CODE OF PRACTICE

3rd February 2017 - ANOTHER TOURIST DIES ON GREAT BARRIER REEF EXCURSION

30th December 2016 - SWIMMERS WARNED OVER SOUTHERLY SPREAD OF IRUKANDJI JELLYFISH

21st November 2016 - DIVING AND SNORKELLING DEATHS SPARK CALLS FOR STANDARDS REVIEW

16th November 2016 - FRENCH TOURISTS DIE ON GREAT BARRIER REEF SNORKELLING TOUR

6th May 2015 - THIRD GREAT BARRIER REEF SCUBA DIVING FATALITY IN THREE MONTHS

15th May 2014 - IRUKANDJI ‘FORECAST’ TO WARN AUSTRALIAN SWIMMERS ABOUT PRESENCE OF DEADLY STINGERS


 

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However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

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