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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