Galapagos : Tour operator’s failings led to diver’s death

Source : Kent News UK

An experienced diver lost her life on a dream trip to the Galapagos Islands after a series of basic failures by tour organisers, a coroner has ruled.

Gillingham-born Donna Newton, 40, died after running into difficulties during a dive off the scenic Pacific islands on Tuesday, October 6 last year.

Mid Kent Coroner Roger Sykes said vital procedures to ensure underwater safety were not followed.

Donna should have been accompanied by a dive buddy who is supposed to help if she got into difficulty.

But the buddy swam off on her own.

The tour’s divemaster also failed to watch over them.

A radio equipment tuned to an emergency beacon carried by divers was also found to not be switched on.

In his damning verdict Mr Sykes said: “Her dive master failed to keep watch over her and her dive buddy.

“Her dive buddy failed to signal to Donna and the dive master that she had to ascend early and the dive master failed to notice that Donna had a loss of buoyancy control on her ascent probably caused by vomiting into her mask and mouthpiece.

“These were serious failures to conform to recognised diving practices.”

Donna was last seen swimming behind some turtles 30 metres below the surface. It was some time before Divemaster Fabricio Carbo noticed she was missing. She was found floating on her back with her mask off and blood and vomit around her nose.

Her buoyancy jacket was inflated and she’d operated her emergency beacon but the receiver aboard the dive boat was switched off.

Her mum Diana says her daughter’s death should be a warning to others.

She said: “If I can stop another family going through the hell we have endured since October then it is something.

“Donna was superfit and would regularly swim a mile before breakfast. We couldn’t go out to talk to the dive master because of the cost.

“She worked hard and saved the money only to die like that. I felt helpless. My daughter was thousands of miles away and I didn’t know what had happened until two days later. I miss her very much.”

Donna was no unfit amateur. Her dive computer showed 51 faultless dives, she’d been a qualified dive master since 2004 and had run the London Marathon and the London to Brighton bike race. She’d climbed mountains and hand glided.

She had won an engineer of the year award and was highly regarded by friends at Thales, a specialist defence contractor where she worked.

Donna was in Indonesia when the tsunami struck and stayed to help rebuild the village she was staying in.

Mr Cole, a veteran of 10,000 dives since 1955 told the inquest: “When first time visitors dive the Galapagos their eyes are like saucers. It’s incumbent on the dive master to watch his charges like a sheep dog.

“Control broke down people were doing their own thing and I don’t think the dive master knew what Donna was doing.

“Her dive buddy, an American woman, had no excuse to go off on her own leaving Donna behind. I do not think there was much dive discipline going on. She was fighting for her life and nobody realised due to the dive master’s sloppiness. “

About Rene

About Ecuador, Galápagos, the Hospitality & Tourism industry, Conservation and personal Tidbits from a Swiss Hôtelier working in Ecuador & Galapagos and committed to supporting and encouraging local youngsters in Education, Sports and Environmental protection via my Foundation "Nova Galápagos."
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