A coroner has ruled that a British student who drowned on the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving for the first time ‘was not given adequate training’.
Bethany Farrell, who was 23 and from Colchester in Essex, lost her life off the coast of Queensland in Australia.
Bethany had become separated from her diving instructor but ‘had not been given appropriate supervision,’ Coroner David O'Connell at Queensland Coroners' Court said, according to the BBC. He also ‘criticised “serious shortcomings” in how the dive was conducted.’
Farrell, who was a University of Southampton graduate and had studied English and media, died in February 2015 at Blue Pearl Bay in the Whitsunday Islands, just six days after arriving in Queensland for her gap year.
While around 23ft (7m) underwater, Farrell had become separated from diving instructor Fiona McTavish, an inquest in Australia found.
The court heard that the diving instructor had briefly ‘turned away from the group of beginners to negotiate some coral in poor visibility conditions.’
According to the report, novice diver Farrell panicked and reached the surface for approximately 40 seconds, but wasn’t able to stay afloat. Witnesses said they heard her call out and ‘wave her arms in distress’, but the skipper conducting the surface watch did not see Farrell.
An hour later her body was discovered on the seabed.
Coroner David O’Connell said there was “no suggestion that any introductory diver was properly instructed about achieving and maintaining positive buoyancy on the surface”.
O’Connell also made 12 recommendations for the diving industry following the three-day inquest into the death of Bethany Farrell.
These suggestions included improved training for divers before they enter open water, and that divers should always be within arm’s length of their instructor.
Image: Stock image of Whitsundays
I can only comment on PADI standards, but if this was a Discover Scuba Diving experience, then the instructor is expected to be close enough to the student to provide “Immediate assistance”. My interpretation of “immediate” is that you pretty much always need to be within arms reach and have the student as your only focus. I maintain constant contact with my DSD students (I hold them or they hold me), which means I can never take more than 2 students at a time. A panic can happen at any time and its therefore our job as instructors to anticipate the unexpected and ‘Be Prepared’. I’m always truly sorry when there is a fatality of a novice, as its just so unnecessary!
I’ve never had a DSD student with me, that I didn’t have at my elbow, and if it’s not a DSD, but a OWD student, then they should have had a lot more training in confined water than what appears to be the case here. And what about the surface crew, why didn’t they react, their only job is to be alert?
I’ve sadly never dived on Great Barrier Reef, I’ve been to many other exotic places, but I doubt that any reef that can produce poor visibility is appropriate for a DSD?
Spot on. Current and/or poor visibility would, to me, equal diving outside the ability of a DSD and no-one should be doing that DSD or otherwise. The growth in scuba’s popularity desensitizes both student and instructor to its hazards I believe and it is sad that we only learn lessons from tragedies such as this. RIP