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Single mistake led to Qld diver's ordeal

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016 Stuart Layt

A scuba diver rescued off the north Queensland coast says his "nightmare" ordeal would have been avoided if he'd put his Personal Locator Beacon back in its case after cleaning it.

John Leslie Brierley was sailing on Sunday near the famous SS Yongala dive site off the coast of Townsville and decided to take the opportunity to dive there.

The 68-year-old, from Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, took his own dinghy to a mooring point, but as soon as he dived in was swept away by a strong current.

The experienced diver was concerned, but knew he had a PLB on his scuba tank which would bring rescue crews right to him.

Except when he opened the case, it was empty.

"I couldn't believe it, and I knew exactly what had happened. I'd taken it out on the last deep dive to make sure the case was dry," Mr Brierley told reporters from his hospital bed in Townsville.

"And that was a tragedy, because if that had gone off, the helicopter would have gone straight to me."

Instead, Mr Brierley spent nearly 18 hours in the water, in what he described as his "nightmare scenario", with rescue aircraft circling but not seeing him.

He was eventually found by a rescue helicopter about 11am on Monday, more than 50 kilometres southeast of his dive site.

Despite the ordeal, he says he'll dive again, making sure his locator beacon is with him.

"I've been doing it for the best part of 30 years. It was my worst-case scenario come to life, but with a PLB on me it all would have been over in a few hours."

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