Snorkeler’s death was misadventure

Companions criticise trip

A passenger from the cruise ship Freedom of the Sea died during a North Sound snorkelling trip on 24 January 2007. After hearing evidence of the circumstances, a Coroner’s Jury returned the verdict of misadventure in the death of Zong Ha Yune, 71.

Cause of death was lung congestion due to salt water drowning.

Donald A. Grant, captain of the motor vessel Stingray, said he and two crew members took 96 passengers to Barrier Reef, near Stingray City. When he anchored, passengers were given a briefing on what they were going to do and how to use the equipment: mask, fins, snorkel and vest.

Asked about arrangements for non-swimmers or first-time snorkelers, Mr. Grant said, ‘We have them stay back for one-to-one briefing and make sure they’re comfortable. After we finish they are allowed to go out in the water.’

He said after the first group got into the water and crew member Morris ‘Pete’ Wilmot was giving instructions, he saw two guests swimming away from the assigned area. He shouted to them, but had to call another boat to get their attention.

Then he heard Pete shouting and he ran to assist. Pete was in the water pulling someone who seemed to be unconscious. They brought the man back on board and began CPR. He called 911, then got the snorkelers out of the water and headed to shore. A faster boat met him and carried the man to hospital.

He said the water in that area was six to eight feet. It was not rough – on a scale of one to 10, maybe three or four. Mr. Grant said he told passengers the trip was two-stop – that after this he would be going to the Sandbar, where they could get off the boat and walk around. They were not compelled to alight at Barrier Reef.

Queen’s Coroner Margaret Ramsay-Hale read statements from other witnesses.

Mr. Wilmot said while he was giving lessons to first-timers, two guests approached and pointed to a man in the water. He dove in and brought the man to the boat.

Crew member David McCathy said he was in the water with about 80 per cent of the passengers. When he saw Pete with the guest, he got back on board and asked the man’s wife permission to perform CPR. She said yes. Two guests trained in CPR offered to assist. The victim was also given oxygen.

Mr. Yune’s wife said her husband was very healthy. He was not a good swimmer.

Mrs. Yune said when the boat arrived ‘in the middle of the ocean,’ the staff did not provide enough information about beginning and expert swimmers. There were no precautions for elderly persons. The waves were rough and water got into her mask.

She did not expect any casualty because her husband was wearing a life jacket. Although she was a good swimmer she was scared when she descended into the water because there was no assistance; therefore, her husband’s fear must have been enormous.

When her husband was taken from the dive boat to the faster boat, she was not allowed to go because she was not being helpful because of her lack of English.

Mr. Yune’s friend, Peter In Song, said the water was deeper than they had been told: instead of four to 10 feet, it was over 10 feet. He said there was not enough warning or instruction.

When they had purchased their tickets, everybody thought this activity should be easy and no risk involved, Mr. Song said.

His wife, Sunny Song, said the excursion staff on the cruise line asked her to sign the receipt but did not explain the waiver statement behind the receipt.

She thought Mr. Yune did not hear the announcement about non-swimmers remaining on the boat.

Passengers John Buxton, Christine Day and Stephen Moore all said instructions were given for first time snorkelers to wait for further instruction. Mr. Moore said the water was calm with little swell; he considered conditions for snorkelling were ideal.