Coro­ner up­set by com­ments

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

A TOUR boat boss who tried to shift blame for a man’s drown­ing death onto his griev­ing widow has been slammed as mak­ing the most “of­fen­sive” state­ment a Cairns coro­ner had ever seen.

Voy­ager Aus­tralia di­rec­tor Peter Ed­wards, which op­er­ates Seas­tar Cruises, sub­mit­ted a state­ment in re­la­tion to the death of Bri­tish grand­fa­ther Eric Fin­layson in 2012, sug- gest­ing his wife had been so ex­cited to see the Great Bar­rier Reef she had left him alone and she was now feel­ing guilty.

“She may ac­tu­ally feel she aban­doned him and knows if she had stayed with her hus­band and re­mained in the buddy pair and not left him there, the out­come might have been very dif­fer­ent,” the state­ment said.

But it was panned by coro­ner Kevin Priestly, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cir­cum­stances of Mr Fin­layson’s death at Michael­mas Cay in Oc­to­ber 2012 and said it was made worse by the fact the state­ment had been sent to his wife.

“I haven’t seen a more of­fen­sive state­ment in a court doc­u­ment as a coro­ner,” he said, dur­ing in­quest pro­ceed­ings in the Cairns Mag­is­trates Court yes­ter­day.

Coun­sel as­sist­ing the coro­ner Je­sika Franco asked that the state­ment be dis­re­garded in the even­tual find­ings.

“In my sub­mis­sion the opin­ion has no ba­sis and is in­dica­tive of a dis­re­gard of safety man­age­ment in so far as Mr Ed­wards can be said to be shift­ing the blame to the next of kin in that she didn’t do more,” she said.

The in­quest heard that on the day of the in­ci­dent two of the staff were trainees, while the other had only worked there for a week.

When Mr Fin­layson’s body was pulled from the wa­ter Mr Ed­wards briefly be­gan CPR be­fore tak­ing a ten­der to the main ves­sel to re­trieve oxy­gen.

The in­quest was told Voy­ager was is­sued with four im­prove­ment no­tices by Work­place Health and Safety when the coro­ner or­dered a re­port into their safety pro­ce­dures last year.

Mr Priestly said he was con­sid­er­ing rec­om­mend­ing a re­view of Voy­ager af­ter six months to en­sure changes had been made.

The coro­ner is look­ing at the cause of death with med­i­cal ex­perts giv­ing ev­i­dence it was due to drown­ing with a back­ground of heart prob­lems.

He was on blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tion at the time.

Work­place Health and Safety div­ing prin­ci­pal ad­viser Chris Coxon said car­diac prob­lems were “clearly the num­ber one killer of recre­ational snorkellers”. Mr Priestly is ex­pected to hand down find­ings within a month.

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