TRAGIC LOSS: Bethany Farrell was just one week into her dream gap year when she drowned.
TRAGIC LOSS: Bethany Farrell was just one week into her dream gap year when she drowned. contributed

Diving company fined $160k after backpacker death

BETHANY Farrell had only been in Australia for one week when tragedy struck.

The 23-year-old Brit was with a group of friends in the Whitsundays.

On February 17, 2015, they were on a trip with Wings Diving Adventures when Bethany decided to take part in an introductory dive at Blue Pearl Bay near Hayman Island.

During the introductory dive, her first, she became separated from her instructor and was later found dead on the ocean floor.

The cause of death was drowning/immersion.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland subsequently conducted a comprehensive investigation into the incident and charged Wings with failing to comply with its health and safety duty, resulting in Bethany's death.

At a hearing in the Proserpine Magistrates Court last Friday, March 17, the Airlie Beach based charter boat operator was fined $160,000, plus professional and court costs of $1,089.40.

DL20 Trading Pty Ltd (trading as Wings Diving Adventures) pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011.

Acknowledging the company had cooperated fully with the investigation and had no previous convictions under work health and safety laws, the magistrate gave an order that no conviction be recorded.

In sentencing Wings, Magistrate Simon Young noted resort diving was a high risk activity in a hostile environment, but that this young lady was inexperienced and relied on the company for her health and safety.

He mentioned the pain suffered by the parents, who flew out from England and both delivered victims' impact statements.

Magistrate Young took into account the company's early guilty plea, cooperation with the investigation and lack of previous convictions.

He also acknowledged the company did not put the parents through the trauma of a contested application.

The court heard the company had an unblemished history and since this tragic incident had stopped all scuba diving activity at significant financial cost.

The company also made a sincere apology.

Members of the family who had travelled to Australia for the hearing, were somewhat disappointed with the 'no conviction' ruling, but content with the fine imposed.

They made an emotional visit to Blue Pearl Bay over the weekend before flying back to the UK.