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Diving fatality prompts rule change

13 August 2004

Diving fatality prompts rule change

A tragic diving accident on 8 January in which a diver died from head-wounds caused by the propeller of a motor launch, has prompted the Maritime Safety Authority to seek changes to maritime legislation. The MSA today released its investigation report into the accident, which happened at the entrance to a bay on Kawau Island. The investigation found there were minor errors of judgment made which ended in a tragic accident.

“A diving flag that was displayed on the diver’s boat should have warned the skipper of the launch that a diver was beneath the surface, but the flag was obscured so the skipper failed to see it,” says Director of Maritime Safety Russell Kilvington. “MSA maritime rules already require every diving vessel to display a dive flag so that it can be clearly seen from 200 metres away from an approaching vessel.”

“As a result of this accident, we experimented to determine the optimum size and display for a flag to be clearly identified from this distance away. The minimum size that can be clearly identified was found to be a minimum of 600mm in height and in length. Dive flags also need to be spread out and displayed so that they are clear of obstructions and are visible to all approaching vessels.

“In order to help prevent another tragedy like this, MSA will be seeking amendments to Maritime Rule Part 91 and regional council bylaws, to specify the appropriate flag size and display,” he said.

“With the aid of hindsight, it is not difficult to determine what caused this accident. It is also fair to say that, without such hindsight, it would have been extremely hard to predict such an unfortunate sequence of events. As a keen diver himself, the skipper of the launch was fully aware of the dangers vessels create for divers. By changing the rules we hope to prevent a similar accident happening again.”


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