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Spanish woman dies while snorkelling

Police are investigating the sudden death of a woman who died while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Police are investigating the sudden death of a woman who died while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

Police are urgently investigating the death of a woman who died while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

The 76-year-old woman, understood to be from Spain, was pulled from the water at Michaelmas Cay, a sand bank 43km northeast of Cairns, after being found unresponsive before 2pm on Tuesday.

At the time, the woman was on an 80-person boat tour operated by Quicksilver Connections with 24 other Spanish tourists.

A spokesperson for the operator said she had been swimming in front of lifeguards when the drowning occurred and was wearing a life jacket at the time. While the lifeguards and a doctor performed CPR at the time, she could not be revived.

Police said the 76-year-old woman died while snorkelling near Cairns. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Police said the 76-year-old woman died while snorkelling near Cairns. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

The death is not being treated as suspicious, and investigators from Work, Health and Safety will be assisting police with inquiries.

According to the police statement, the woman’s family have yet to be notified.

“Investigations are in the early stages and limited details are available at this time; however, police are not treating the death as suspicious,” the statement read.

“It may be some time before police can confirm the identity of the woman and notify their next of kin.”

The Quicksilver Connections spokesperson confirmed the boat had returned to Cairns and counselling would be provided to staff.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by this incident and their families,” they said.

“We are meeting the boat as it docks and will reach out to the tour group leader to offer any assistance they need.”

The company added it took guests’ safety “very seriously” and said their staff were trained to respond to medical incidents.

“We will assist the authorities in any way we can and work with them to ensure the safety of our region so visitors can continue to enjoy snorkelling activities,” the spokesperson said.

The woman drowned despite swimming in a life jacket in front of lifeguards.
The woman drowned despite swimming in a life jacket in front of lifeguards.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland spokesperson confirmed the government body was investigating the snorkelling incident and issued a warning to all tourism operators amid the busy peak period.

The tragedy comes about two weeks after South Australian grandfather Adrian Meyer, 71, died after being swept away while on a snorkelling tour in the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is the second incident in recent weeks and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) urges all operators to exercise increased vigilance,” they said.

“Every year, people travel to the reef to experience its beauty and enjoy snorkelling activities – they need to get home safely to their loved ones.

“The safety of the community should always be the highest priority for every water tourism operator.”

As the body responsible for regulating snorkelling laws and providing technical advice to assist businesses to meet their safety obligations, the spokeswoman issued a clear warning to businesses doing the wrong thing.

If businesses fail to meet these obligations, WHSQ will explore all avenues to hold them to account,” they said.

“A range of snorkelling information can be found on the WHSQ website, including briefing and medical advice available in 14 languages.”