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Great Barrier Reef: third fatality in a week as British tourist dies on dive

The Guardian The Guardian 18/11/2016 Joshua Robertson
Agincourt reef: The British tourist died while diving on Agincourt reef. © Fairfax Media via Getty Images The British tourist died while diving on Agincourt reef. A British man has died while diving on the Great Barrier Reef, the third death in three days among visitors to Australia’s popular natural tourist attraction.

The 60-year-old man was found without a breathing device during a tandem scuba dive at Agincourt reef, 100km north of Cairns, on Friday.

A nurse on board the tour vessel Silversonic tried in vain to revive the man with a defibrillator, a spokeswoman for Queensland ambulance service said.

The British man, who has not yet been named, was accompanied by his wife and had travelled to the reef with tour operator Quicksilver, the Cairns Post reported.

A doctor flew to the scene but the man could not be resuscitated, the ambulance service said.

Two French tourists died on the reef from near simultaneous heart attacks on Wednesday.

Jacques Goron, 76, and Danielle Franck, 74, died within minutes of each other while snorkelling on Wednesday at Michaelmas Cay, also near Cairns.

Both had pre-existing medical conditions and it is believed both suffered heart attacks.

An Australian cardiologist has speculated whether they were stung by highly venomous Irukandji jellyfish but a dive industry representative said there was no sign of jellyfish at the scene.

Col McKenzie, of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, said three deaths in three days was an exceptional turn of events on the reef but it was difficult to draw any lessons from what appeared to be tragic coincidence.

“It is really unusual but I’m kind of at a loss,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in so long, and you look and think, what can we learn from this?

“It is really difficult to see how we could have done anything else, to be perfectly frank.”

McKenzie said the last comparable rash of reef fatalities was in the late 1980s, which triggered sweeping changes for dive operators.

They included the requirement for advanced medical aiders, defibrillators and oxygen equipment to be available on vessels.

“The worldwide average for people having a fatality when diving is one fatality per 100,000 dives,” he said.

“In Queensland, we have one fatality for 450,000 dives – so we have a record that is four and a half times better than the worldwide industry average.”

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