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Freediving in work-break ‘very unwise’

Freediving in work-break ‘very unwise’

harry byatt

Over-exertion has been suggested as an explanation for the death of a teenage British watersports instructor who went freediving during a work-break.

Nineteen-year-old Henry Byatt, known as Harry, failed to resurface from a dive in Zakynthos in the Greek Islands on 6 August, 2017, as reported at the time on Divernet. His body was later recovered from the seabed at 30m.

A two-day inquest is set for October, but at a pre-inquest review hearing at Westminster Coroner’s Court on 12 July Senior Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox commented that Byatt might have been fatigued when he and two friends decided to go freediving during their working day.

“People in court will probably conclude that it was very unwise,” she said. “He could have chosen to go to his room and lie down and rest. A sensible adult when they were tired would go and rest.”

15 July 2019

Although described in a number of reports as a scuba-diving instructor, Byatt was a sailing enthusiast working for the island’s Peligoni Club beach resort, which offers a variety of surface watersports but appears to have no scuba-diving facility.

The Coroner reported that the police had carried out an extensive investigation but decided that it would not be appropriate to bring any criminal charges as a result of the fatality.

Neither had it been appropriate for the Health & Safety Executive to examine Byatt’s death, because his freedive had been “a voluntary activity on his part, although it was during his working day”. The monofin and mask he had used had not been supplied by the Peligoni Club and the freedive was outside his normal working requirements.

However, Dr Wilcox said that because the evidence made clear that Byatt had been dead when brought to the surface, she was examining issues included the sequence of events, the actions of others present, including the raising of the alarm, the search and resuscitation attempts, surface cover and emergency equipment available.

Byatt was working during the summer but was a business management student at Oxford Brookes University. His parents Duncan and Alexandra, former lady-in-waiting to Princess Diana, were present at the hearing.

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