A young British tourist who died during her first scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef may have been lost by her diving instructor, an inquest has found.
Bethany Farrell, 23, died after she became separated from her instructor while swimming off the coast of Queensland a week after beginning her gap year in 2015.
An inquest into the young woman’s death has heard Wings Diving Adventures dive instructor Fiona McTavish looked away to get her bearings on an alternative route when she realised Ms Farrell had disappeared, ABC News reported.
Bethany Farrell (pictured) died during a scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef in 2015 and may have been lost by her diving instruct
The British tourist (pictured) became separated from her instructor while swimming off the coast of Queensland a week after beginning her gap year
An inquest into woman’s (pictured) death heard Wings Diving Adventures dive instructor Fiona McTavish looked away to get her bearings when discovered Ms Farrell had vanished
Ms McTavish said she went to look for Ms Farrell at Blue Harbour Bay (pictured) after she took the dive group on a different route and eventually found the 23-year-old in ‘deeper water’
‘When I couldn’t find her I took the other diver back to the surface and waited for her to be picked up,’ Ms McTavish said.
‘I went back and looked for her … for about an hour.
Ms McTavish said she took the diving tour on a different route at Blue Pearl Bay, Whitsundays, so they would not get mixed with another group who were diving at the same time.
‘I (eventually found her) … beyond the diving track in deeper water,’ Ms McTavish said.
The young backpacker was found 10 metres down on the seabed in the popular diving spot.
The pristine bay is on the north-western side of Hayman Island, part of the Cumberland Islands off the coast of central Queensland where underwater visibility is usually about 50 metres.
The inquest heard during the fatal dive, visibility was ‘terrible’ because divers could only see about half-a-metre to three metres in deeper water, the publication reported.
Ms McTavish had helped the 23-year-old during the training session before the main scuba dive because of difficulties with the equipment, the inquest revealed.
The young backpacker (pictured) was found 35ft down on the seabed in popular diving spot
Ms McTavish had helped Ms Farrell (pictured) during the training session before the main scuba dive because of difficulties with the equipment, the inquest revealed
Ms Farrell’s devastated parents demanded to know why their daughter wasn’t properly supervised.
The young woman’s father, Patrick, 47, said the death was devastating.
‘She was on a supervised activity – she should have been safe. It has just been devastating,’ he said.
‘From what we can gather, Bethany had boarded a bus to get the boat at 1pm. She was dead by 5pm.
‘We have photos of her looking like she was having fun. There are times when I have just been hoping I had gone insane and got it wrong. Bethany was a pure and gentle soul.’
Wings Diving Adventures were given a non-recorded fine of $160,000 for ‘general supervisory failings’ in early 2017 (Ms Farrell pictured)
The former soldier, who lives in Colchester, Essex, last spoke to his daughter on Skype two days before her death.
Mr Farrell, who is divorced from Ms Farrell’s mother Caron, said: ‘The instructor had three students, one of them was Bethany. One of the students decided she did not want to dive but we have not got the exact reasons why, so she remained on the boat which left the instructor, Bethany and one of her friends.
‘At some point, the diving instructor lost sight of Bethany, then realised she could not locate her, returned the other student to the surface, sought help and went back down, presumably with some other people to help.
‘They found Bethany dead 11 metres down. They were meant to be diving to a depth of five metres.’
Wings Diving Adventures were given a non-recorded fine of $160,000 for ‘general supervisory failings’ in early 2017.
Ms Farrell, who studied English literature and media at Southampton Solent University, had been in Australia for a week and met up with some friends.
She had been planning to work in the country for a year and posted a series of images to Instagram in the days before her death on February 17.
Her father said his daughter was a competent swimmer who had signed up for introductory diving after snorkelling lessons, before she then progressed to scuba diving.
‘A lot of her friends said they had never seen her so happy,’ Mr Farrell said.
Ms Farrell’s heartbroken mother said it felt like a nightmare.
‘For the first few days it was like a bad dream,’ she said.
Ms McTavish said she took the diving tour on a different route at Blue Pearl Bay so they would not get mixed with another group who were diving at the same time (stock image)
‘We have got pictures of them all with the snorkelling equipment. They are all smiling.’
Ms Farrell worked during her university course as a shop assistant in a stationery store and a bartender.
After graduating she was employed at Laura Ashley in Colchester and, in the days and weeks leading up to her trip to Australia, she excitedly tweeted about the adventure.
On January 14 she wrote: ‘This year is already off to an exciting start – one month to go!’
Three weeks later, shortly before leaving, she joked: ‘Packing light really isn’t in my vocabulary.’
She took a number of photos through the plane’s window on the flight to Australia and wrote to one of her friends on Instagram: ‘I am very excited – it’s been a long journey…I just want to get there now.’
Ms Farrell, who was staying in a youth hostel, had a younger brother, Jake, 20.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors said the instructor would have been allowed to take four students to a maximum depth of 12 metres.
A spokesman added that discretion should be exercised, saying: ‘This is in ideal conditions with really good students.’
Ms Farrell, who studied English literature and media at Southampton Solent University, was planning to work in Australia for a year before the fatal dive (stock image)