Coroner calls for safety rules after diving death

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 February, 2009, 12:00am
 

The Coroner's Court has urged the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to issue safety rules for scuba diving instructors, and to offer diving courses, after a woman taking a beginner's course drowned.

A jury decided unanimously yesterday that the death of Rosie Fan Hiu-yi, 27 - a doctor from Princess Margaret Hospital - in Sai Kung in November was an accident.

To avoid similar cases, the jury recommended that the department co-operate with diving instructors to map out safety rules and to raise public awareness on diving safety. It said department officials could provide diving courses for beginners. The department said it would look into the court's suggestions.

On November 4, Fan attended her first beginner's class with two other learners. They were diving to 3 metres under the guidance of a female instructor from a rented boat about 20 metres off a pier at Wu Lei Kiu, the court heard.

Fan was found unconscious about 7 to 8 metres from the boat at about 3pm. The boat returned to Wong Shek Pier and an ambulance took her to Tseung Kwan O Hospital, where she was declared dead.

'At about 3pm, the [victim] decided to leave the other learners and the instructor, and to return to the boat alone,' the jury said.

'Fan was short of energy and the weather started to deteriorate at that time. And she drowned about 7 to 8 metres away from the boat.'

Fan Wan-tat, the victim's father, said he accepted the court verdict. He also urged the government to introduce diving safety guidelines. 'There are no such regulations for instructors,' he said.

A diving beginner is required to learn basic theory and to take eight to 10 hours of training in 'confined water', which usually refers to a swimming pool or beachside, before venturing into 'open water' areas.

Steven Au Siu-kin, course director of Diving Adventure, a local diving club, welcomed the idea of issuing a set of safety rules for divers in Hong Kong.

The veteran diver also said some coaches were less experienced and offered cheaper classes.

'Sometimes they will skip the 'confined water' part ... and take students directly into seawater. This is risky,' Mr Au said.

He called on the government to step up public promotion of diving safety rules.

A coach at Blue Point Diving Training Centre, who identified himself as Mr Tang, cast doubts on the viability of Hong Kong setting its own rules in learning the sport.

'It will be hard for the government or the Hong Kong Underwater Association to monitor the implementation of the rules,' he said.

'In most cases, it is up to the coaches' self-discipline.'

Mr Tang also shrugged off the idea of working with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to offer classes.

'I don't think any clubs can accept the government's interference in their business.'

Four Hongkongers have lost their lives when diving, all in the waters of Sai Kung, in the past three years. About a month before Fan's mishap, a 42-year-old novice diver, surnamed Wong, drowned at Ngau Mei Hoi.

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