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Toll reaches six. What’s killing divers in Australia?

November 22, 2016 Headline News No Comments Email Email


A British tourist has died while scuba diving at Agincourt Reef about 100 kilometres north of Cairns, just days after two French tourists died almost simultaneously while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

The sudden death of the French tourists has grabbed attention around the world. See:  Fatal coincidence as tourists die together on Reef

It was followed by other deaths. So far, three tourists have died in Queensland (last Wednesday and Friday), a Tasmanian man died on Saturday and a New South Wales man and a Victorian man died on Sunday.

A cardiologist has speculated that the French pair, who were aged in their 70s, may have been stung by the deadly Irukandji jellyfish, less than the size of a fingernail and  the smallest and most lethal box jellyfish in the sea.

Irukandji inhabit Australia’s northern marine waters and, according to Wikipedia, “are able to fire their stingers into their victim, causing symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome”.

The symptoms include “excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, a burning sensation of the skin and face, headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena such as the feeling of impending doom”. See: Did tiny jellyfish kill two elderly tourists in Australia?

The British tourist who died at the weekend was aged 60 and was on only his second certified dive of the day.

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie told the Cairns Post the man was seen to have his regulator out of his mouth while underwater on the seabed at a depth of 15 metres.

He was taken aboard the Quicksilver Group’s Silversonic vessel, where CPR was administered, without success. An emergency helicopter flew a doctor to the Quicksilver helicopter pad.

Meanwhile, a 49-year-old man died at the weekend while scuba diving near Visscher Island north-east of Marion Bay in Tasmania. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at a nearby boat ramp and is thought to have drowned. A report is being prepared for the coroner.

A NSW man was snorkelling with two others when he got difficulty off Congo in NSW on Sunday evening. Paramedics tried to revive him but he died at the scene. Another scuba diver died after being reported to be in distress in Victoria on the same day.

There is no suggestion of Irukandji in those deaths – the jellyfish do not inhabit waters so far south.

Written by Peter Needham

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