Divers thank rescuers as probe starts

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Posted by on May 24, 2008 at 18:16:03:

In Reply to: Clear thinking kept stranded divers alive posted by on May 24, 2008 at 18:11:06:

TWO divers found after drifting for 19 hours in waters off the Whitsundays have thanked their rescuers.

A Townsville Hospital spokesman said the 38-year-old British man and 40-year-old American woman, whose names have not been released, were too tired to speak publicly.

"They are trying to catch up with some rest," the spokesman said.

He said the divers used their life equipment to stay afloat and were in a stable condition.

They expected to be released from hospital today and may speak about their ordeal then.
"I think they're just very grateful to survive," the spokesman said.

Police have credited the experienced divers' survival to their remaining calm in the crisis.

Queensland water police Acting Superintendent Shane Chelepy said the divers found themselves 200 metres from their vessel, Pacific Star, when they resurfaced at Bait Reef at the scheduled time of 2.30pm (AEST) Friday.

They were found by a plane floating in the water just before 9am (AEST) yesterday 7.8 nautical miles (14.4km) from where they were last seen.

"The divers made some very good decisions throughout the evening," Supt Chelepy said.

"My information from talking to them is they strapped themselves together using their weight belts, they conserved energy, stayed as a pair and awaited rescue."

The pair were among six people diving off the chartered vessel at Bait Reef.

The diving boat's crew is believed to have spent around three hours searching for the missing divers before contacting police.

Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart said the boat operators could be charged with negligence if an investigation found they were in any way responsible.

"The issue then becomes one of negligence and the degree of negligence," he said.

"We will look at all aspects of what occurred and it will take some time to reach a conclusion."

He said the search involved 10 aircraft at its peak earlier this morning, with agencies working together including police, SES and the search and rescue agency AusSAR.

Supt Chelepy said the divers were found well within the search boundaries and resisted calls to make personal locating beacons on a belt or Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS) compulsory for divers.

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