Wings fined af­ter death

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

BETHANY Farrell had only been in Aus­tralia for one week when tragedy struck.

The 23-year-old Brit was with a group of friends in the Whit­sun­days.

On Fe­bru­ary 17, 2015, they were on a trip with Wings Div­ing Ad­ven­tures when Bethany de­cided to take part in an in­tro­duc­tory dive at Blue Pearl Bay near Hay­man Is­land.

Dur­ing the in­tro­duc­tory dive, her first, she be­came sep­a­rated from her in­struc­tor and was later found dead on the ocean floor.

The cause of death was drown­ing/im­mer­sion.

Workplace Health and Safety Queens­land sub­se­quently con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent and charged Wings with fail­ing to com­ply with its health and safety duty, re­sult­ing in Bethany’s death.

At a hear­ing in the Proser­pine Mag­is­trates Court on Fri­day, March 17, the Air­lie Beach based char­ter boat op­er­a­tor was fined $160,000, plus pro­fes­sional and court costs of $1,089.40.

DL20 Trad­ing Pty Ltd (trad­ing as Wings Div­ing Ad­ven­tures) pleaded guilty to breach­ing its duty un­der the Safety in Recre­ational Wa­ter Ac­tiv­i­ties Act 2011.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the com­pany had co-op­er­ated fully with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions un­der work health and safety laws, the mag­is­trate gave an or­der that no con­vic­tion be recorded.

In sen­tenc­ing Wings, Mag­is­trate Si­mon Young noted re­sort div­ing was a high-risk ac­tiv­ity in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, but that this young lady was in­ex­pe­ri­enced and re­lied on the com­pany for her health and safety.

He men­tioned the pain suf­fered by the par­ents, who flew out from Eng­land and both de­liv­ered vic­tims’ im­pact state­ments.

Mag­is­trate Young took into ac­count the com­pany’s early guilty plea, co-op­er­a­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and lack of pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions.

He also ac­knowl­edged the com­pany did not put the par­ents through the trauma of a con­tested ap­pli­ca­tion.

The court heard the com­pany had an un­blem­ished his­tory and since this tragic in­ci­dent had stopped all scuba div­ing ac­tiv­ity at sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial cost.

The com­pany also made a sin­cere apol­ogy.

Mem­bers of the fam­ily who had trav­elled to Aus­tralia for the hear­ing, were some­what dis­ap­pointed with the ‘no con­vic­tion’ rul­ing, but con­tent with the fine im­posed. They made an emo­tional visit to Blue Pearl Bay be­fore fly­ing back to the United King­dom.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

TRAGIC LOSS: Bethany Farrell was just one week into her dream gap year when she drowned.

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