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Older tourist snorkelling death

In October 2018, an older male tourist was pulled from the water unconscious and later died at a snorkelling site, during a day tour with a tour operator. The tour operator had identified him as an at risk snorkeler. Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

Recreational snorkelling in Queensland is often conducted during commercially operated tours from vessels at reef or island locations. Tragically more snorkelers than divers die in Queensland each year. Snorkelling deaths with commercial tour operators most commonly involve:

  • people with pre-existing medical conditions, in particular cardiac conditions
  • older people, predominantly men
  • inexperienced snorkelers and swimmers of all ages and gender
  • international visitors with little or no understanding of English.

Before snorkelers enter the water they should be assessed to determine whether they are at risk. The assessment is not designed to stop potential snorkelers from participating in snorkelling activities. Identifying which individuals are at risk and providing them with additional attention is a vital part of ensuring their safety by providing them with appropriate advice, equipment and supervision. If a person is identified as an at risk snorkeler, the PCBU should:

  • increase supervision
  • use specifically coloured equipment or other markings so the at risk snorkeler can be easily supervised and monitored in the water
  • encourage them to participate in guided snorkelling activities
  • keep them close to lookouts and supervisors
  • encourage them to snorkel with a paired buddy
  • encourage them to use a flotation device.

If the at risk snorkeler refuses to comply with any reasonable instruction to use control measures for their safety, the tour operator can refuse to allow them to enter the water.

Statistics

Since January 2013 there have been 22 deaths involving recreational snorkelling as part of a commercial tour. Sixteen were men and six were women, varying in age from 20 to 76.

In this time we have issued 46 improvement notices to manage risks associated with snorkelling activities.

More Information

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Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury? For advice and support, visit our Facebook page or email ohs.coronialliaison@oir.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
29 November 2018

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