Coroner upset by comments
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.