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Snorkelling fatality

In October 2020, a woman was on a guided snorkel tour when she apparently panicked and needed to be taken back to the main vessel. However, on the rescue tender she lapsed into unconsciousness.

The crew and paramedics, who arrived on the scene via rescue helicopter, attempted to resuscitate the woman.

Tragically, she died.

Snorkelling in Queensland

Many people visit the Great Barrier Reef and other tourist destinations to dive or snorkel, often for the first time. Many snorkellers have little or no previous experience and may not be strong swimmers. Despite this, they are willing participants.

Tragically, each year in Queensland there are snorkelling deaths linked to commercial tour operators. Snorkelling deaths with commercial tour operators most commonly involve:

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

Dive and snorkel tour operators should consider the following to better ensure the safety of their customers:

  • increase the number of dedicated lookouts and in-water guides
  • enhance lookout scanning techniques by rotating duties and ensuring lookouts are able to focus on supervision without distraction
  • advise all visitors to snorkel with flotation devices
  • arrange additional guided snorkelling tours and buddy pairs
  • assess and identify 'at risk' snorkellers (i.e. age, health, swimming ability, anxiety level) and provide them with additional supervision.
  • use specifically coloured equipment or other markings so at-risk snorkellers can be easily supervised and monitored in the water
  • ensure there are guides or interpreters available at the diving and snorkelling sites to help with advice and queries
  • prepare and distribute translated information on diving and snorkel safety (WHSQ has translated advice for divers and snorkellers in 15 languages, including simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese)
  • review and rehearse emergency procedures, including rescue and first aid.

If an at risk snorkeller 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.

More Information

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