‘The farther you are the worse it looks’

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Two divers dead on the Great Barrier Reef1:15

Two French tourists have died after being found unconscious in waters north of Cairns.

Tourism operators risk fallout from overseas visitors following this week’s Great Barrier Reef deaths.

Liz Burkenews.com.au@lizeburke

THE British tourist who died while scuba diving at Agincourt Reef had been on his second certified dive of the day before tragedy struck.

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie told The Cairns Post the 60-year-old man was seen to have his regulator out of his mouth while underwater on the ocean bottom, at a depth of 15m.

He said the man was retrieved to the surface, and taken on-board the Quicksilver Group’s Silversonic vessel, where CPR was administered.

He said the emergency helicopter flew a doctor to the Quicksilver helicopter pad at the reef, 100km north of Cairns, where he was met by the dive boat.

The doctor assisted with CPR, however after an extended effort with no response, the diver was declared dead.

He said resuscitation efforts were not successful despite the company having oxygen and defibrillation equipment on site.

“The dive boat, Silver Sonic, has operated for 11 years and carried 230,000 divers during that time with no diving fatalities,” Mr McKenzie said.

“Accidents like this are a tragedy for the surviving family members, the crew and the passengers.”

The man was travelling with his wife.

Overseas visitors are most likely to be deterred from Queensland’s tourism-reliant far north in the wake of the deaths of two tourists on the Great Barrier Reef earlier this week, an industry expert has warned.

Adding to the Far North Queensland’s woes, a helicopter rescue team is at the scene of a chopper crash 25 nautical miles west of the Daintree in the state’s far north.

The Cairns Post also reports paramedics are treating at least one person who was onboard the Robinson aircraft which crashed at about 1.45pm.

The pilot has been flown to Cairns Base Hospital in a critical condition but mystery remains as to the whereabouts of a passenger thought to also be on board.

The man, believed to be in his early 40s, was conscious when the Rescue 510 crew picked him up near Mt Windsor and it is believed he lit a fire to alert emergency services to his location.

The crew are en route to the scene to search for a passenger who may have also been on the flight.

It is yet to be confirmed whether another person was on board and the pilot was too dazed to assist crew members.

The marine’s park tourism operators are adamant the deaths will have little effect on the local industry.

But as news of the incident reaches Europe where the 74 and 76-year-old French tourists originated, and Asia, where the majority of the reef’s visitors come from, some anxiety around booking holidays is expected.

As University of Sydney senior tourism lecturer David Beirman warns, “the farther you are from an event the worse it starts to look”.

There has been some speculation around the cause of the French tourists’ deaths, but there is no suggestion the operator of the snorkelling cruise, Passions of Paradise, was at fault.

The pair had both informed the tour group they had pre-existing medical conditions which could have triggered heart attacks. Another theory around the deaths is that the pair could have been struck by the deadly reef-dwelling Irukandji jelly fish.

The Passions Of Paradise boat as it arrives back at the Cairns Marina after two French tourists died at Michaelmas Cay. Picture: Anna Rogers

The Passions Of Paradise boat as it arrives back at the Cairns Marina after two French tourists died at Michaelmas Cay. Picture: Anna RogersSource:News Corp Australia

But according to Dr Beirman, no matter what the cause, the headlines around deaths on the reef will be enough to deter some international tourists from their holidays.

“What people will read, particularly back in France is that two people back in Australia died while snorkelling, and if they’re planning on doing that that’ll get their attention,” he told news.com.au.

“That’s potentially a problem but from what I understand the tour operators themselves were not negligent, it’s understood the people were elderly and taking a risk while they were on this trip, and, like in the cruising part of the industry, the majority of tourists will understand that this incident doesn’t mean that they are any more at risk unless they themselves are taking those risks.”

International visitors bring in just over $1 billion to the tropical north’s tourism industry annually.

Dr Beirman said he believed the impact to tourism in tropical north queensland would be minimal, particularly if the situation continued to be well-handled by local operators and industry representatives.

“I honestly don’t think, as sad as the incident is, that this is going to be a disaster for tourism,” he said.

Two French tourists died at Michaelmas Cay this week.

Two French tourists died at Michaelmas Cay this week.Source:Supplied

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie told news.com.au he didn’t believe the incident would hurt tourism at all.

“I can’t see it hurting us in any way,” he said.

“I don’t really see that the operators could do any more than what they did, and I don’t think any of them see there being a reduction in numbers. Just look at the cruise ship industry, they have people dying every bloody trip.”

The reef incident follows the death of four visitors to Dreamworld when one of the theme park’s rides malfunctioned.

The Gold Coast also relies on its $5.1 billion tourism industry as one of its biggest, and it’s starting to feel the effect of the disaster.

All of Dreamworld’s neighbouring theme parks — Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Sea World, all owned by Village Roadshow — have felt a sharp drop in visitor numbers since the accident.

Dreamworld remains closed and the fatal ride will be demolished.

Village Roadshow chairman Robert Kirby revealed yesterday at the company’s ­annual general meeting that business had been “inconsistent” since the Dreamworld deaths.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate expressed concerns for the local tourism industry following the disaster, admitting the incident hit hard “emotionally and as a community”, and pleaded with tourists not to abandon the city as a holiday destination.

The Gold Coast’s wider tourism industry is feeling the impact of the deaths at Dreamworld. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The Gold Coast’s wider tourism industry is feeling the impact of the deaths at Dreamworld. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

But Dr Beirman points out the Gold Coast’s situation is very different to what Far North Queensland is enduring.

“The circumstances are very different, in Dreamworld’s case the disaster which killed four people was really due to a mechanical failure of the raid, and there you can say the duty of care of the park likely had a lot to do with the deaths of those people, whereas in the case of the two French people who had a heart attack, I don’t think in this case the tour operators were necessarily at fault,” he said.

“When you have active tourism there is always going to be a certain natural risk that people may die of essentially natural causes.”

Citing the cruise ship industry, which is popular among older clientele, and operators frequently deal with not-at-fault deaths while remaining popular, Dr Beirman said tourists were understanding of different circumstances.

He also said Dreamworld’s handling of the disaster may have impact the market response to the incident.

“That’s something Dreamworld got off to a very bad start with, dealing with the media and offering assistance, but they ended up doing the right thing in the end,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kimberley Vlasic and Daniel Bateman from The Cairns Post.

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