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Qld dive industry to meet over reef deaths

AAP logoAAP 13/12/2016 Stuart Layt

A second rescue helicopter is needed for Far North Queensland to prevent more dive deaths, according to a Great Barrier Reef tourism boss.

Col McKenzie has made the observation as he met with the state government on Wednesday following the fourth death in far north waters in less than a month.

A 75-year-old Japanese woman was pulled unconscious from the water at Moore Reef, about 40km from Cairns on Tuesday afternoon.

It followed the deaths of two French tourists aged in their 70s, who were snorkelling, and a British scuba diver, 61, on the reef in November.

The latest fatality brings the total number of north Queensland diving deaths this year to 10, which Mr McKenzie, the executive director of Marine Park Tourism Operators, said was double the average.

"I think we need to have a really close look at all the individual incidents and also look at it holistically and see if there's anything we can do," he said

Mr McKenzie said in four of the last five dive fatalities the rescue helicopter wasn't available.

"We can't keep them alive for the two to three hours it takes to take them back in by boat. We've got to get a helicopter."

As proof, Mr McKenzie points to an incident last week, where a snorkeller was pulled from the water unconscious near Norman Reef, but was rushed to hospital by the rescue helicopter and survived.

"Look, in fairness, that helicopter covers an area as big as Victoria. It's just too small a resource load," Mr McKenzie said.

"And I've heard people say these things come in waves and you can't provide that kind of capacity, but let me tell you if you wanted to use that thought process we'd only have one fire truck in each city."

The dive industry boss also pointed to the growing number of baby boomers from overseas taking their "trip of a lifetime" as another possible cause for the recent spike in fatalities.

"They're out there now doing what we'd term their bucket list-type activities they want to do before they die," he said.

"Well I'd appreciate them finishing their bucket list before they kick the bucket."

Mr McKenzie met with Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace on Wednesday afternoon.

Ahead of the meeting, Ms Grace said Queensland has one of the strongest safety standards for the recreational water industry in the country.

"Our aim is to ensure holidaymakers and visitors are able to experience the reef safely and we'll continue to work with industry to ensure safety is always paramount," she said.

A meeting between the dive industry and Workplace Health and Safety is planned by the end of January.

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