Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Jarrod Arthur HAMPTON

Inquest into the Death of Jarrod Arthur HAMPTON

Delivered on : 13 February 2018

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner King

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : The deceased was a very experienced SCUBA diver who obtained work as a pearl shell drift diver with Paspaley Pearling Company Pty Ltd (Paspaley) in February 2012.  Pearl shell drift divers use surface supplied breathing apparatus (SSBA), or hookah, which involves air-lines attached to a compressor on a purpose-built vessel.  The divers are pulled behind the vessel along the sea bed on ropes, known as work-lines.  The divers collect pearl oysters which are raised up to the deck of the vessel on winches.

The deceased joined the crew of a Paspaley drift diving vessel on which he began carrying out the actual role of shell drift diver on 13 April 2012 about 90 nautical miles south of Broome. On that day he and the seven other divers carried out nine dives without incident.  Each dive lasted about 50 minutes.

On 14 April 2012 the crew again planned to complete nine dives. During either the second dive or the fourth dive, the deceased became disoriented in an area of poor visibility and lost contact with his work-line.  He eventually surfaced and returned to the vessel.

After about 30 minutes into the eighth dive on 14 April 2012, the deceased surfaced twice and each time called out. He then submerged and did not surface again on his own.  The deckhand on the back deck heard and saw him call out.  Acting under instructions by the skipper, the deckhand pulled the deceased into the vessel by his air-line.  The deceased was lifted up the ladder by hand and placed onto the back deck where he was administered CPR, but he could not be revived.  The time taken to return the deceased to the surface near the vessel after he had called out could have been up to 29 minutes.

The focus of the inquest was the circumstances surrounding the deceased’s death and on Paspaley’s safety procedures at the time.

The Coroner was satisfied that the deceased had experienced pulmonary barotrauma from an uncontrolled ascent, which resulted in an air embolism and cerebral arterial gas embolism, which incapacitated him and led to his death from drowning. The evidence did not disclose the cause of the deceased’s uncontrolled ascent.  The Coroner found that the death occurred by way of misadventure.

The Coroner concluded that, while Paspaley generally complied with the Pearl Producers Association Code of Practise relevant to drift diving in the time leading up to the deceased’s death, it had failed to train and practise its personnel in emergency and rescue procedures covering the search, recovery and retrieval of injured divers. Since this death, Paspaley has implemented procedures to reduce the risk of another diver dying in similar circumstances.

Catch Words : Pearling: Diving : : Drift Diving : SSBA: Hookah : Uncontrolled Ascent: Pulmonary Barotrauma: Air Embolism : Misadventure : Diver Retrieval

Last updated: 30-Apr-2019

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