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July 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dive Instructor Walks Away Free from Dead Diver Case

from the July, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the kind of case you will never see in an American court, an Australian dive instructor charged with manslaughter walked free in May after a magistrate threw the case out of court. Yuri Bonning, 43, was potentially facing a life sentence over the death of 20-year-old Chinese student Xia Dai who drowned after disappearing during a dive off Southern Queensland's Wave Break Island in April 2009. Magistrate Michael Hogan ruled that police had not established a case against Bonning.

Bonning's attorney had argued to have the charge struck because she was the first dive instructor in Australia to be charged with manslaughter over a diving death before a coronial inquest had been held. He asserted that Dai disappeared from a group of four divers when Bonning momentarily turned her attention to a diver who was apparently using too much air. When she turned back, Dai was gone.

Prosecutors argued it was not a momentary lapse but an inappropriate method of supervision that led to Dai's death, given the imperfect conditions on the day she drowned. The judge disagreed, saying the evidence did not support allegations of criminal negligence. He also stated that legislation placed the onus on the employer, not the employee, to ensure diving client safety. Now, Queensland Dive Company, Bonning's former employer, will face the court this month on charges of breaching that law.

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