A 22-YEAR-OLD Victorian man who died while diving for pearls off Western Australia’s north coast told a colleague he’d become lost underwater earlier that day and almost drowned, an inquest has heard.
Jarrod Hampton was a fit, healthy and experienced recreational diver but was only on his second day of drift diving for Paspaley Pearling Company on April 14, 2012 when he got into trouble off Eighty Mile Beach, between Port Hedland and Broome.
Fellow diver Jayde Murray Theodore told the WA Coroner’s Court on Wednesday he assumed Mr Hampton was joking when he came up after one of eight dives and said he’d lost hold of the line that connected him to the vessel and nearly drowned.
Engineer Jamie Ray Hulme said he heard the crew discussing the incident on the back deck, but losing the line occasionally happened in the industry so he didn’t ask about it as he wasn’t overly concerned.
“It’s just part of diving,” Mr Hulme said.
He said he was working inside when he heard three hammer blows on the back deck, which was the signal for the divers to surface, and thought that was earlier than usual.
The inquest heard earlier this week that Mr Hampton had raised the alarm by surfacing and shouting for help twice before becoming submerged again.
Mr Hulme said the skipper told the deckhand to retrieve Mr Hampton by pulling on his air hose and jumped into the water immediately when he saw the unconscious diver.
The engineer jumped in too and other divers helped to bring Mr Hampton to the boat as they surfaced one by one, but struggled to lift him onto the deck because it was too high.
Mr Hulme said he realised, with hindsight, they could have used a winch that lifted up the shell bags.
The crew applied CPR for about an hour but Mr Hampton could not be revived.
“Everybody was very sombre and we were in shock,” Mr Hulme said.
Another boat delivered a body bag and Mr Hampton remained on the deck as the Paspaley II sailed through the night back to shore, where it was met by police.
Mr Hulme said the air supply had been checked before the tragedy and was functioning properly.
But he was not given a role for emergencies and didn’t know there was an emergency plan.
“I didn’t have the knowledge of what to do in this instance,” he said.
The court has heard the company made changes after Mr Hampton’s death, including making buoyancy devices mandatory for all divers and ensuring two crew members, including a lookout, are always on deck.
Online Source: news.com.au