Victim made ‘wrong call’ by getting into the water

DIVE boat skipper Leila Trott's fatal decision to swim out to a rogue dinghy in choppy waters on the Great Barrier Reef was the wrong call and against company procedure, her inquest has heard.

Ms Trott is believed to have died from a sudden cardiac episode soon after she set off on a 200m-400m swim near Green Island on April 6, 2016.

A coronial inquest into her death has heard dive instructor Filippo Matucci lost sight of his colleague after he left for a two-minute toilet break on the main boat Ocean Free.

"I was assuming she was on the other side of the dinghy," Mr Matucci told the Cairns Coroner's Court on Thursday.

Despite having abandoned his lookout and waiting 40 minutes before making an urgent pan-pan call over the radio, colleagues do not blame Mr Matucci for his actions.

Skipper Rob Toomey told the court Ms Trott did not make the right call by getting in the water despite being capable of swimming the distance. "In my opinion Leila shouldn't have left the boat," Mr Toomey said.

Mr Toomey also said the pan-pan call, the last call before a mayday, would have been "useless" because Mr Matucci had already alerted boats in the area to search.

"I think he did the right thing, he called the closest vessel to him," Mr Toomey said.

"The help came when he asked for it." The court heard there was an "understanding" among the crew not to swim to a dinghy if it had slipped its mooring, but that was not officially written in the company's safety manual.

Cairns Premier Reef and Island Tours director Taryn Agius said she had not penalised Mr Matucci for leaving his lookout because he was not in the wrong.

"He hadn't actually breached any procedures because the lookout and rescue procedures we had in place are purely for recreational snorkelling and diving," Ms Agius said.

"He really had no expectation that leaving for a short two minute break would ever, ever end in the tragic circumstance that it did." The court heard the company has since changed its procedures to ensure there is a lookout at all times.

Ms Trott was by all accounts a fit and healthy 38-year-old woman and an experienced swimmer.

Forensic pathologist Paul Botterill told the court on Wednesday her unforeseen cardiac episode was brought on by a significantly narrowed artery. Dr Botterill said it was not unheard of for the underlying heart condition to cause people to die without showing symptoms.

Ms Agius said in her experience a drowning cardiac victim is incapable of waving for help and can die very suddenly.
The inquest continues on Friday.

News Corp Australia

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