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Sunday 25 February 2018

Two probes under way into scuba death of backpacker

Allison Bray

A second investigation has been launched into the scuba diving accident that claimed the life of a young Irish backpacker in Australia.

Australian workplace, health and safety officials have now joined Mackay Police in Queensland in investigating the circumstances into the tragic death last Sunday of Elaine Morrow (23), from Ballintra, Co Donegal.

Ms Morrow, a graduate of NUI Maynooth, had only just arrived in Australia on a one-year visa in January.

She was on a three-day chartered boat trip with friends in North Queensland when she joined 12 other tourists on a scuba diving expedition off the popular Whitsunday Islands last weekend.

It's believed that Ms Morrow, a first-time diver, may have become separated from the diving instructor. Her body was found on the ocean floor after she failed to surface with the others at 4:15pm local time.

Despite their attempts at CPR, she could not be revived by witnesses to the accident.

A postmortem was conducted on her body on Wednesday but the results are not expected to be released until next week, Mackay Police told the Irish Independent last night.

But they did reveal that the tour operator which chartered the cruise boat, Summertime, is under investigation.

Whitsunday Sailing Adventures and Tourism, however, claims that "all of our tours are operated to the highest safety standards".

The company's CEO Peter O'Reilly said it was fully co-operating with the investigations into the accident.

"Queensland has some of the strictest diving guidelines in the world and is therefore one of the safest regions to scuba dive in the world," he told the local 'Mackay Daily Mercury' newspaper yesterday.

"However, diving is an adventure activity and as such there are some inherent risks. Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family and friends of the young lady," he said.


Meanwhile, neighbours rallied around the Morrow family in Ballintra yesterday as they struggled with Ms Morrow's death, which ironically occurred two years to the day that her grandfather, Victor Barnes (80), also died, according to a close friend of the family.

"They're still in a state of shock and I don't think it has really sunk in yet," he said. "They're absolutely shattered."

Three of Ms Morrow's former classmates from Ballintra, who are living in Australia, are helping the family as they make arrangements to bring her body home once it is released by the coroner, he added.

Family members were too upset to comment last night.

However, a relative revealed that Ms Morrow was "having the time of her life" before the tragedy struck.

Irish Independent

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