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Pearl diver dies in Broome

pearlescence

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Aug 18, 2007
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No, Amanda was quoting European Union employment law.
But whatever the employment law in Australia, Paspaley cleared offered a rate sufficient to attract workers.
I thank Diver Dave for his careful and thorough explanations of the realities of diving. I've learned a lot. It seems to me that diving is very like aviation - careful and thorough training. With emphasis on safe practicies and a willingness to learn from hard mistakes.Whatever the findings of the inquest when investigations are finished will be fed back to divers around the world. You can design out lots of accident-risks but with humans in the mix there is always bound to be stuff.
 

Honey_and_Lemon

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Commercial Diving is dangerous work, and would in most cases get you declined for life insurance per se. It's ultimately Paspaley's responsibility to run a safe operation, and that includes making sure that there employee's are appropriately skilled for the tasks they are doing. You're not doing anyone a favor if you give them a job they aren't suited for.
 

Mary Montpezat

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Poof. End of story.

In Australia we regard a single death in 20 years as a valuable life lost, particularly as this appears to have been a preventable death, and any coroner will go to endless lengths to discover the truth, and apply that knowledge to preventing further deaths. I don't think "Pouf!" is in the vocabulary of anyone who is dealing with an industrial accident - which this death is classed as.

One of the problems may be the mining boom - at the same time as divers had their wages "temporarily" cut, a truck driver or even a totally unskilled worker inland from where Paspaley operates can earn $200,000 a year. Not excusing Paspaley, but no wonder they are losing divers to the mines, and left with too few divers to pass on the knowledge ....
 

pearlescence

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No-one is saying that this death is not a valuable and young life lost. What some of us are saying is that calm and dispassionate investigation and logical thinking rather than biased and over excited jumping to conclusions will best serve all divers in the long term.
 

Mary Montpezat

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I'm not aware of any divers union.

Australia has the Maritime Union, covering pretty much the gamut of workers who work in/with the sea ... including divers. I'd say, though, that piece workers in remote Australia would be less likely to belong to the union than most ...
 

Caitlin

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I just mean I doubt this story has legs beyond the tragedy itself. The investigation probably will be thorough, the conclusions honest and any suggestions or court orders (or however it works down there) will be followed.

I wonder if Paspaley really is paying enough to attract experienced and capable divers of that caliber? It seems at the moment there is controversy over that, if it is true there was a large pay cut.

Personally, I would not cry if Paspaley were raked over the coals, but I think they are too conscientious to let that happen.
 

pearlharbourer

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Interesting articles about Paspaley removing negative online comments after the ABC Four Corners broadcast about the diver's death, from an Australian media news website:

Paspaley after Four Corners Facebook backlash: sorry for ‘inadvertently’ deleting comments
http://mumbrella.com.au/paspaley-af...ry-for-inadvertently-deleting-comments-102481

Paspaley faces social media wrath after Four Corners show on death of pearl diver
http://mumbrella.com.au/paspaley-fa...r-corners-show-on-death-of-pearl-diver-102316
 

Ragnorak

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Please note that I am replying to Lagoon Island Pearl's comments and this in no way should be construed as anything other than this.

No accidents like this in twenty years, indicate the diving industry has done well to properly certify divers and regulate the short and long term exposure to pressure.

It means no such thing. While people come into drift diving from other commercial diving areas, many still come from the tourist oriented dive industry.

An open water dive certificate entitles a person to under go the pearl industry induction course. Even the industry spokesman did not regard the induction course as a qualification to drift dive.

This doesn't mean that I'm implying that the industry does not attempt to follow best practice.

In defense of Paspaley and as a person with extensive commercial diving experience, the amount of money paid has little or nothing to do with a diver's personal safety.

But it does appear that the lack of experienced divers on the boat may have contributed to this man's death. Money being the reason why a lot of experience divers left the industry. Even you have commented that the ratio of greenhorns to experienced drivers on the boat may have been high.

Just as a bit of trivia, I remember another company was paying $4 per shell caught to the diver in the mid 1990s. So I'd be a bit miffed being told to take $3.50 a shell. Especially when the going rate was $4.50.

The reporters are making the owners out to be slave drivers, forcing the divers into the water against their will. The reporters make out the diver as an experienced diver in their intro, then say he was a green diver. Which one is it?
While the man may have been an experienced scuba diver that in no way made him and experienced drift diver.

NOT ONCE, did they mention the likelyhood of the diver for panic,...
It was mentioned that he'd lost his workline twice that day on two different dives. It's not something you want to happen. It's around the 24 minute mark of the 4 Corners report.

What I think happened is that he lost his workline again on the final dive and started to panic.

The diver finished his decompression at 10 feet and still had his weight belt on, so the parents claim that he executed his emergency assent correctly is blatantly false.
No he didn't. He never made it to the decompression stop. The deckhand reported to the skipper that a driver had surfaced and possibly called for help. It was the head diver that made it to deco and looked up to see the young man face down and still attached to his hose.

Unless things have changed the deco stop is done at 10 metres (about 30 feet), not 10 feet.

The only reason why a person would not drop his lead, is because he's not willing to lose and replace it or it was turned backwards so he couldn't get at it, which would be his own fault for not securing it correctly.
I wouldn't ditch my weight belt unless the situation was dire. Something like say my hose getting wrapped around the boat's propeller. After all it's the only thing attaching me to the hose and therefore the boat. And you do learn quickly to keep you weight belt tight. It's not good not knowing where your hose has gone.

He was at the end of his hose, so there is no possibility that both hands were busy hanging on, because he was secured to the line. The buckle requires a simple, one finger flip and it's gone, then the bouyancy of the suit takes over and puts the diver high in the water so he can breathe.
Not if you're already unconscious.

The reporter also wrongly assumes foam in the mask is consistent with drowning. It's not. Foam in the mask is consistent with an air embolism, which is caused by holding your breath on assent. Something even the greenest of green divers understand you cannot do, ever.
I do believe he lost his workline again on that last dive and paniced. People do strange things while they are panicing.

Add to that it's getting dark and visibility is poor. You also have an inexperienced diver whose had two good scares already.

He may have paniced and held his breath and suffered a gas embolism. He may have found his air getting tight and paniced even more and started taking in water. But I am certain that he did black out after reaching the surface.

But watching that 4 Corners report I have to question a couple of things.

At 19:35 minutes it is stated that if a diver loses his workline the only only what to get back to the boat is to pull himself up his hose to the surface. The first thing I'd do is chase after the line. If I couldn't catch it then I'd started reeling my hose in until I could start using it as a workline. Eventually you'll find one of the trailing worlkines without have to go to the surface.

Also at 20:10 mintues there's mention of having to swim your bag of shell to a winch line. I have to wonder why there isn't a swim line from the outer shot weight to the ladder.
 
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Ragnorak

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So, that would be true in Australia too? If so that talk about salary cuts couldn't be correct.

It's not full time employment. Divers are contracted for the season and paid per shell caught.
 

Caitlin

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That was a sloppy remark, but they did cut the per shell price by a third or so. And someone said the cut cost him 20k a year.

Why does Paspaley culture in those deep ocean currents? Aren't there safer places to grow than that? Their whole industrial approach makes for really high priced beads, yet the corporation appears to be increasing corporate profits on the backs of the divers. Or at least seems to be stopping decreasing profits.
 

Ragnorak

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Why does Paspaley culture in those deep ocean currents?
Aren't there safer places to grow than that?

The 80 Mile Beach is where the pearling companies take their anually aloted quota of shell from the wild. After seeding the shell are moved away to each company's farming areas.
 

Lagoon Island Pearls

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Thank you for the comments. I'll answer objectively. Most of the posters here are not divers, so I tend to stop and explain terminology and procedures before making a point.

While people come into drift diving from other commercial diving areas, many still come from the tourist oriented dive industry.

An open water dive certificate entitles a person to under go the pearl industry induction course. Even the industry spokesman did not regard the induction course as a qualification to drift dive.

This doesn't mean that I'm implying that the industry does not attempt to follow best practice.

An Open Water Diver Certification is an advanced program. It's much more rigorous than the Basic Diver program offered to recreational divers. An OW diver will be well versed in the perils commercial diving. That includes risk assessment and rescue proceedures.

You have also noted Paspaley has a pre-requisite induction program. I have not attended or reviewed this program, but I think it's safe to say there are several points of learning that divers gain on top of their current OWDC. I'm assuming it covers things like apparatus familiarization, marine identification, signalling, rescue procedures and other details relative to the operation itself.

I have difficulty with the disgruntled divers claiming there is none. Surely, at the very least, there must be something.

Both diving and maritime navigation are inherently fraught with perils. There is no book or checklist that covers every single aspect of emergencies. As I mentioned earlier, dive medicine is a complex science and every commercial diver worth their salt knows and understands they are working under conditions where recompression and hospitals are not immediately at hand.

But it does appear that the lack of experienced divers on the boat may have contributed to this man's death. Money being the reason why a lot of experience divers left the industry. Even you have commented that the ratio of greenhorns to experienced drivers on the boat may have been high.

I would not be comfortable with that ratio, but if all of the greenhorns are fit, eager and ready to, that is a responsibility shared by the supervisor and divers. Just by virtue of that alone, puts a minimum of half the responsibility upon the diver. It's an implied contract.

From that video, I get no impression of that at all. They are attempting to lay all of the blame on Paspaley.

I take exception to the money thing though. Simply because a person is payed less than their predecessors does not mean their own personal responsibility is diminished. At one dollar per shell or a thousand dollars per shell, my personal procedures would not change one bit. Surely you don't mean to suggest that mutual responsibility from the other divers as standby divers or rescuers is diminished, simply because of money?

Again, that video suggested that a dollar less per shell means they should care less. What a shameful thing to report! If anything it suggest the divers are the greedy ones, compromising the safety of their peers as some kind of tacet boycott or work to rule campaign.

To even begin to suggest so, is a slap in the face to the remaining crewmen who did everything within their abilities to save the man.

Just as a bit of trivia, I remember another company was paying $4 per shell caught to the diver in the mid 1990s. So I'd be a bit miffed being told to take $3.50 a shell. Especially when the going rate was $4.50.

That's nothing new. Dive boats here in Canada pay different prices too. Some boats are big comfortable crafts with sophisticated dive systems, TV, laundry and all the ammenities. Some boats are small, cramped, smelly and few perks. Divers have the freedom to pick and choose who and who not to work for and the price per pound is reflected in that decision.


It was mentioned that he'd lost his workline twice that day on two different dives. It's not something you want to happen. It's around the 24 minute mark of the 4 Corners report.

What I think happened is that he lost his workline again on the final dive and started to panic.

Yet he got back in the water. After a twenty minute cigarette break, no less. The supervisor didn't put a gun to his head, he re-entered under his own volition. If anything, the video implies the diver himself was not responsible for that decision. Instead insisiting it was Paspaley's responsibility to know what was in the man's head.

He never made it to the decompression stop. The deckhand reported to the skipper that a driver had surfaced and possibly called for help. It was the head diver that made it to deco and looked up to see the young man face down and still attached to his hose.

Unless things have changed the deco stop is done at 10 metres (about 30 feet), not 10 feet.

I wouldn't ditch my weight belt unless the situation was dire. Something like say my hose getting wrapped around the boat's propeller. After all it's the only thing attaching me to the hose and therefore the boat. And you do learn quickly to keep you weight belt tight. It's not good not knowing where your hose has gone.

Oh boy, the dreaded "suicide pack". The weight belt and the umbilical have no business being attached to each other. They were outlawed here 25 years ago. Divers must wear a separate belt and backpack (although many divers add 10 lbs of shot inside it and five pounds on each strap) and an EBS (Emergency Breathing System) or an inverted 15 cu. ft. pony bottle.

Not if you're already unconscious.

For the purpose of editing, Ragnarok is mentioning dropping the weight belt. I stand corrected on my earlier comment, although I was misled by what the report said in the video.

If anything though, this furthers my theory that he embolized. On top of that, possibly bent. He was conscious at the surface, but expired soon after. The video claims he was drowned, but that makes no sense whatsoever. Performing CPR on a bent, embolized diver is a double-edged sword. It exacerbates internal injuries. Drowning victims respond to CPR more readily and usually recovery fully within a few days.

Clearly, in this case, even if the best rescue and treatment was at hand, this diver's fate was sealed (after the fact).

But watching that 4 Corners report I have to question a couple of things.

At 19:35 minutes it is stated that if a diver loses his workline the only only what to get back to the boat is to pull himself up his hose to the surface. The first thing I'd do is chase after the line. If I couldn't catch it then I'd started reeling my hose in until I could start using it as a workline. Eventually you'll find one of the trailing worlkines without have to go to the surface.

Also at 20:10 mintues there's mention of having to swim your bag of shell to a winch line. I have to wonder why there isn't a swim line from the outer shot weight to the ladder.

Drift diving is markedly different than static diving for sure. The air hose, becomes your "down line". For the non-diver folks, in a static system, a down line is a rope with a weight and clip. It's used to descend first, then it's used to change bags on the bottom so the diver need not surface every time. The tender can see the diver's bubbles approaching the boat, then by holding it, can feel the diver making the change. One changed, the diver signals by a series of pulls. One pull = Attention, Two pulls = Pay Slack, Three Pulls = All Clear, Multiple Pulls = PULL ME UP NOW!

Drift diving needs to be streamlined. Less drag, less weight. The diver must be able to maintain his ability to swim in any direction. The fact the winch line is toward the middle of the boat should not be a problem, but to some degree, does indeed add to the arduous labour of the task. Again, we are not talking about moving furniture, we are talking about deepsea diving. This is not an issue easily resolved by regulations or procedures, it's an issue relative to the physical fitness if the diver. Pulling anchors, retieving air hoses, unloading product and any general marine task are all physically demanding duties apart from the diving itself. One's endurance can be monitored by supervisors without getting into the water. If a person is unable to do the deck work, it's unlikely they'll get put in the water.

Decompression diving should not be permitted without a chamber. Decompression stops should be used on every arduous dive within the tables, as a safety proceedure. You mentioned Paspaley does indeed use the decompression stop as a policy, but for what purpose? In other words, was this a repetitive decompression dive with a necessity to remain at depth, or a just a safety stop?
 
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Ragnorak

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An Open Water Diver Certification is an advanced program. It's much more rigorous than the Basic Diver program offered to recreational divers. An OW diver will be well versed in the perils commercial diving. That includes risk assessment and rescue proceedures.

The open water certification is the same that recreational divers use. Unless standards have changed over the years I didn't think too much of the open water and advanced open water courses run by PADI.

You have also noted Paspaley has a pre-requisite induction program.
No I haven't. I have noted that there is an industry induction course and that even the industry sopkesman said that completing it doesn't automatically qualify someone as a drift diver.

I have not attended or reviewed this program, but I think it's safe to say there are several points of learning that divers gain on top of their current OWDC. I'm assuming it covers things like apparatus familiarization, marine identification, signalling, rescue procedures and other details relative to the operation itself.
From what was noted in the 4 Corners report the course doesn't seem to have changed all that much from when it was started in the early 1990s. Back then it was put together more to familiarise current drivers with the dangers of the bends and provided relevent theory and some pratical knowledge.

I have difficulty with the disgruntled divers claiming there is none. Surely, at the very least, there must be something.
Just because someone is a disgrutled ex-employee it doesn't necessarily mean they are blatantly lying.

I would not be comfortable with that ratio, but if all of the greenhorns are fit, eager and ready to, that is a responsibility shared by the supervisor and divers. Just by virtue of that alone, puts a minimum of half the responsibility upon the diver. It's an implied contract. From that video, I get no impression of that at all. They are attempting to lay all of the blame on Paspaley.
From the report it can also be seen that, assuming what was reported was truthful, Paspaely may have failed in their duty of care towards their employee.

As I've said many still come into drift diving from the tourist oriented dive indusrty. Drift diving is hard underwater labour and some many not be ready for that no matter how fit they are.


I take exception to the money thing though. Simply because a person is payed less than their predecessors does not mean their own personal responsibility is diminished. At one dollar per shell or a thousand dollars per shell, my personal procedures would not change one bit. Surely you don't mean to suggest that mutual responsibility from the other divers as standby divers or rescuers is diminished, simply because of money?
I am suggesting that same thing that the report was suggesting. That the approximate 22% reduction in the shell pay rate lead to a lot of the more experienced divers to abandon the industry. Leading to too many inexperienced divers ending up on one boat.

The booms on the Paspaley 2 are about 50 feet long. It's a long way to go for the head diver to keep an eye on everyone.

Again, that video suggested that a dollar less per shell means they should care less. What a shameful thing to report! If anything it suggest the divers are the greedy ones, compromising the safety of their peers as some kind of tacet boycott or work to rule campaign.

To even begin to suggest so, is a slap in the face to the remaining crewmen who did everything within their abilities to save the man.
I think you should review the video again. Without the bias this time, that I believe is colouring your judgement.


Yet he got back in the water. After a twenty minute cigarette break, no less. The supervisor didn't put a gun to his head, he re-entered under his own volition. If anything, the video implies the diver himself was not responsible for that decision. Instead insisiting it was Paspaley's responsibility to know what was in the man's head.
You missed the fact that he didn't have a 20 minute cigertte break. He was trying to have a smoke but didn't really get to because he has to "chip" shell like everyone else.

For those not in the know chipping shell is industry slang for cleaning off any marine growth attached to the shell.

This involves using a chopper and a wooden block to slice off said growth. You have to put some muscle in as well since most if not all shell are not very clean. Growth build up can be quite thick.


Oh boy, the dreaded "suicide pack". The weight belt and the umbilical have no business being attached to each other. They were outlawed here 25 years ago. Divers must wear a separate belt and backpack (although many divers add 10 lbs of shot inside it and five pounds on each strap) and an EBS (Emergency Breathing System) or an inverted 15 cu. ft. pony bottle.
Not a chance of attaching a hose to a backpack set up. The weight belt is the easiest thing to get out of if you get your hose hooked up. Especially if it's wrapped around the propeller and draging you towards it.


If anything though, this furthers my theory that he embolized. On top of that, possibly bent. He was conscious at the surface, but expired soon after. The video claims he was drowned, but that makes no sense whatsoever. Performing CPR on a bent, embolized diver is a double-edged sword. It exacerbates internal injuries. Drowning victims respond to CPR more readily and usually recovery fully within a few days.
Perhaps. Though I do think he lost his workline again and started to chase it and wore himself out. It's hard work changing a line that's drifting away from you, especially with the added weight of a neckbag.

After not being able to catch up with his line he's pulled himsef up his hose towards the surface and arrived exhausted. He's taken out his regulator and called for help. By that time he was at the end of his hose and started to get towed. Too exhausted to get his reg back into his mouth he's drowned.

People may ask, surely it's not that difficult to get a regulator back in your mouth.

Considering that everyone covers up, especially around their mouths then yes it can be difficult if you're exhausted.

Please note that this is my theory only.


Clearly, in this case, even if the best rescue and treatment was at hand, this diver's fate was sealed (after the fact).
What I am wondering is why the deckhand went up to the wheelhouse to alert the skipper to the fact that a diver had surfaced. Where was the intercom?

I don't think he should have had to have left the back deck. He could have been able to render immediate assistance.


Drift diving is markedly different than static diving for sure. The air hose, becomes your "down line".
The air hose doesn't become a downline. The report illustrates how drifting works.
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2012/07/05/3539781.htm
Fast forward to the 17:50 minute mark.

Drift diving needs to be streamlined. Less drag, less weight. The diver must be able to maintain his ability to swim in any direction. The fact the winch line is toward the middle of the boat should not be a problem, but to some degree, does indeed add to the arduous labour of the task.
The addition of a swim line between the outer shot weight line and ladder attached to the side of the boat greatly assists with getting your bag over to the winch line.

You have a point of reference and something to drag yourself along.


Again, we are not talking about moving furniture, we are talking about deepsea diving.
You've experienced the work load involved with drift diving for pearl shell?

This is not an issue easily resolved by regulations or procedures, it's an issue relative to the physical fitness if the diver.
Fittness plays an obvious part but it's more to do with the driver's situational awareness and his ability to stay cool under pressure and not panic.

There are many that aren't particularly suited to drift diving and they certainly shouldn't be allowed to do it.

If a person is unable to do the deck work, it's unlikely they'll get put in the water.
Considering that there can be 8 to 9 dives at up to 30 metres each day, I don't think anyone should be doing deck work after they've just surfaced.

You mentioned Paspaley does indeed use the decompression stop as a policy, but for what purpose? In other words, was this a repetitive decompression dive with a necessity to remain at depth, or a just a safety stop?
It an industry standard to dive the way Paspaley is shown doing in the report.

Staging at 10 metres for varing lengths of time after some dives is used as a safety stop.
 
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pearlescence

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Absent objective and detailed information on circumstances and events it is probably a good idea for us to wait for the full inquest
I assume that coroners in Australia have similar wide ranging powers to those held by coroners in England and Wales
 

Ragnorak

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Absent objective and detailed information on circumstances and events it is probably a good idea for us to wait for the full inquest

Edit: The report was detailed enough to allow for specualation that Paspaley may have been negligent in their duty of care.

From your comments here and here you seem to have already made up your mind.

4 Corners has been taken to task over it's 40 year history but it still attempts to maintain ojectivitiy in it's reports. It is still well regarded in Australia for it.

A coronor's investigation is not a criminal investigation so there was no reason that Paspaley couldn't have commented on screen. Though I can understand their reasoning for not doing so.

But the question should be asked, how did Paspaley allow a situation to come to pass were 5 out of the 8 divers onboard had never been drift diving. Add to that the head diver was new to his job as well.
End of edit.

It appears that complacency all round was to blame. Perhaps it'll be another wake up call for the industry. Hopefully so.

From what I can remember the last time the industry on the west coast had people die was in 1990. Two divers succombed to carbon monoxide poisioning while working on a farm in Roebuck Bay.

These deaths caused the industry to implement safety reforms. Hopefully it will happen again, even before the coroner releases their report.


I assume that coroners in Australia have similar wide ranging powers to those held by coroners in England and Wales
The WA Coroner's Office does seem to have wide ranging powers.
Coroner's Act
Refer to Part 5 - Inquests into deaths. Page 30 of the document. Page 38 of the PDF.
 
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Amanda

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Coroners were established in 1194 in England, during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. It was partly a money-raising device, partly a way of circumventing often corrupt local sheriffs. They not only dealt with deaths, but also rapes, arson, treasure trove, and other things like whales and wrecks. They do still deal with some of those things - including treasure trove.
 

Mary Montpezat

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Absent objective and detailed information on circumstances and events it is probably a good idea for us to wait for the full inquest
I assume that coroners in Australia have similar wide ranging powers to those held by coroners in England and Wales

Yes, they have very similar investigatory and inquisition powers, and can of course recommend prosecution. Thank heaven for the British governance system so many countries inherited! And, while the remote "Wild West" in Australia is very much beyond the law on the ground in some ways, anyone found to have been negligent (including say federal inspection bodies) will be held to account.
 

R&B

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Good evening All

Thanks for your comments Dave, I just watched the first four minutes of the 4 Corners program on their web site.

I really feel for the parents however, the haunting music and comments from the presenters in the first few minutes is enough for me.

As I have watched 4 Corners from the beginning 40 years ago, I can only wonder why they are running this story the way they are.

A death is sad indeed. What are the combined dive hours for participants in the industry for the last 20 years with the resulting one death.

I find it to be very tacky journalism, for a show to be presented like this before the coroners had his say.
 
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