A 23-year-old British woman died on her first scuba dive at a Great Barrier Reef site after being put at risk by the dive school, an Essex inquest was told last week – and the coroner concluded that there were “various failings in the way in which the diving activities were carried out”.
Bethany Farrell from Colchester in Essex had recently graduated from Southampton Solent University and was six days into a year-long “dream trip” to Australia.
Visiting the Whitsunday islands off Queensland, she had decided to take part in an introductory scuba session with Wings Diving Adventures. The open-water dive took place from a boat in Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island, in late afternoon on 17 February, 2015.
Senior Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray heard that Farrell panicked after becoming isolated from her friend, also a non-diver, and their instructor Fiona McTavish, possibly as a result of two dive-groups overlapping under water.
Farrell was seen briefly at the surface by a boat-crew before descending into deep water, where she drowned. The cause of death was confirmed by a post mortem back in the UK, and a Queensland police report stated that the circumstances of the separation could have contributed to her drowning.
A report from Queensland’s Office of Industrial Relations read out at the inquest outlined a series of failings by Airlie Beach-based Wings Diving Adventures, the name under which DL20 Trading Pty Ltd operated. It stated that the new divers should have been competency-tested and taught about buoyancy control in both deep and shallow water before being taken into the sea.
The coroner recorded a narrative verdict, under which the circumstances of a death are recorded without attributing the cause to a named party. The Office of Industrial Relations is understood to be undertaking legal proceedings against the dive-school.
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