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Reparations ordered over dive death

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/08/2016

A diving operator has been ordered to pay $70,000 in reparations to the family of a Taiwanese tourist who drowned while scuba diving in the Coromandel two years ago.

Waikato firm Cathedral Cove Dive Ltd and director Russell Cochrane had earlier pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to keep the woman safe.

The sentence is contained in a Hamilton District Court decision released on Tuesday. No fine was imposed.

The case arose from an incident at Hahei in November 2014, when the victim was left to swim unsupervised while wearing scuba equipment selected by Cochrane.

She swam out of the enclosed bay where the dive was taking place, exhausted her air supply and was found hours later floating face down in the water.

Aside from inadequate supervision, the woman was fitted with a buoyancy compensator device that was too large and made it more difficult for her to lift her head out of the water to breathe.

WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart says the death was entirely preventable if CCDL had given her appropriately-sized gear and supervised her in the manner required.

He says water-related activities always come with the risk of drowning, and CCDL should have managed this risk and been vigilant with their clients, especially groups where the participants have no experience.

"Sadly a woman has lost her life and a family have lost a mother because of failures by the company and its director to meet their legal obligations," he said.

In his decision, Judge Simon Menzies set a fine at $66,000 and reparations at $125,000, a $191,000 total which he described as proportional to the offending.

However, the judge took into account the defendants' financial capacity and noted that they would have been unable to meet the full reparation figure, let alone the fine.

He said priority should be given to reparations, which he ordered to be $70,000.

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