Family say dive death negligent

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Shannon HamptonThe West Australian
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Tony and Robyn Hampton at court yesterday.
Camera IconTony and Robyn Hampton at court yesterday. Credit: Michael Wilson

The death of a pearl diver off WA’s north coast was “a case of extreme negligence” by the company that employed him, the diver’s father told an inquest yesterday.

Jarrod Hampton, 22, was on his second day working as a drift diver for the Paspaley Pearling Company off Eighty Mile Beach, south of Broome, when he drowned in April 2012.

In a tearful address to the court, Tony Hampton expressed his anger over what he said was a failure by the company to ensure adequate safety and emergency procedures on their boats.

Mr Hampton, who travelled from Victoria with his wife Robyn and sons Jake and Travis to attend the inquest, described the rescue effort as a “debacle”.

Jarrod Hampton, an experienced scuba diver, had surfaced early and shouted for help before disappearing under water.

When crew members realised he was in trouble, he was pulled in by his air hose, but there were delays getting the unconscious diver to the deck, and attempts to revive him failed.

“By the time they got Jarrod on the deck, it was all too late,” Mr Hampton said.

Jarrod Hampton
Camera IconJarrod Hampton Credit: ABC1

“We believe this is a case of extreme negligence driven by arrogance and should be punished by law.”

In closing submissions yesterday, counsel assisting the coroner Sgt Lyle Housiaux, urged the coroner to support expert evidence that saltwater aspiration and an air embolism likely caused Mr Hampton’s death.

Sgt Housiaux said it was likely Mr Hampton panicked after ingesting the water and ascended too fast, causing the embolism.

He pointed to “unsatisfactory” procedures, including that the company did not consider drowning a high risk because there had not been a high incidence of drowning in the pearl diving industry.

Sgt Housiaux said it was also unsatisfactory that the boat’s skipper, Ronald Watson, first called the company’s occupational health and safety manager Dean Harrison rather than Broome hospital or triple-0.

Paspaley executive director James Paspaley earlier testified that given the remoteness of the work it was more efficient to contact Mr Harrison or the company’s hyperbaric specialist. However, Sgt Housiaux said a triple-0 call would have connected to a “highly trained paramedic”.

Lawyer Adam Coote, for Mr Hampton’s family, said it took about 15 minutes to retrieve Mr Hampton.

The inquest continues.

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