A forensic diving medicine examination of a highly publicised scuba diving fatality

Consultant in Diving Medicine, 69-74 North Steyne, Manly, NSW 2095, Australia, E-mail: .
Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (Impact Factor: 0.68). 12/2012; 42(4):224-30.
Source: PubMed


A high-profile diving death occurred in 2003 at the site of the wreck of the SS Yongala off the Queensland coast. The victim's buddy, her husband, was accused of her murder and found guilty of manslaughter in an Australian court. A detailed analysis of all the evidence concerning this fatality suggests alternative medical reasons for her death. The value of decompression computers in determining the diving details and of CT scans in clarifying autopsy findings is demonstrated. The victim was medically, physically and psychologically unfit to undertake the fatal dive. She was inexperienced and inadequately supervised. She was over-weighted and exposed for the first time to difficult currents. The analysis of the dive demonstrates how important it is to consider the interaction of all factors and to not make deductions from individual items of information. It also highlights the importance of early liaison between expert divers, technicians, diving clinicians and pathologists, if inappropriate conclusions are to be avoided.

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