A few weeks ago we posted a Blog about the manslaughter court case against an Australian diving instructor. The woman from Ashmore (Qld) was the first diving instructor to be charged with manslaughter after having lost a diver on a guided dive trip. Chinese student Xia Dai drowned during a dive at the Gold Coast after she went missing from the group. Her body was later found on the ocean floor.
In the accompanying Facebook poll we asked our Facebook friends: ‘If a diver dies due to negligence who should be held responsible? A few respondents to the Blog questioned the diver’s ability to swim - because as crazy as it sounds: this is not always a requirement for a scuba dive- and the Southport Broadwater is very shallow dive. One Adreno fan commented: “I have issues with the precedents this case will set. But the blog sums up the attitude that both the industry and the individual has: After all: cancelling a dive costs money…". The majority of the Facebook visitors voted ‘both the operator as the instructor’ should be held responsible, while almost a third voted for ‘just the operator’. Only a few people thought only the instructor should stand trial.As it now appears the Magistrate was also of the opinion that the diving instructor should not stand trial in this case. He concluded that she had not failed in her supervisory duties. According to the Courier Mail he rejected police allegations that she had failed to provide proper instruction, check equipment and monitor conditions. During the 7-day hearing the police argued that Xia Dai was over-weighted for her size and her regulator’s mouthpiece had a hole in it. However, the Magistrate said “instruction and equipment-checking was probably the duty of the dive company”, not the diving instructor.
Now the committal hearing has been held and the diving instructor has been acquitted, everyone active in the diving industry can breathe a sigh of relief, as the precedent of such a case could have had a severe impact on all diving instructors. Or as one respondent to this Blog pointed out it: “I don’t like the idea of pinning it to a single instructor. If we go down this path we just won’t have instructors anymore as they will all be too afraid of being sued/put in jail.”
In the meantime, the warning sign that this trial sent out will not be missed, as diving instructors may now be more inclined to question the diving operator’s safety standards before taking a group of divers on a guided trip.