They also supplied two images showing Michaelmas Cay and the moorings. The vessel Coral Sea Dreaming was at the mooring marked "public" which is the closest one to the beach.
I'll make a separate blog about this however the salient matter in all this torrid affair, is that Passions say the utilise a "Queensland-approved Dual Active Headcount” by the affected tourist confirmed that this did not occur last Saturday afternoon.
- MEDIA INFORMATION 1 July 2011
Snorkelling incident on 25 June 2011 at Michaelmas Cay
Statement by Passions of Paradise Managing Director Alan Wallish
On 25 June 2011 there were three vessels including a large passenger catamaran, two overnight dive boats and the Passions of Paradise catamaran at Michaelmas Cay. On this particular day there were approximately 150 people snorkelling and swimming at Michaelmas Cay.
On average 250 – 300 people visit Michaelmas Cay per day. Michaelmas Cay beachfront is approximately 200m long, is approximately 2.4 hectares in a medium tide and is a marine bird sanctuary. It is generally considered one of the safest places to snorkel in Cairns because it has a sloping beach leading into shallow water. The water is between 1 – 3 metres deep in the areas where there is coral. It is a popular area for families and suitable for swimmers of all abilities because it is well protected from winds and currents. Passengers snorkel between the beach and the boats.
On 25 June 2011, Mr Ian Cole was seen snorkelling approximately 10 – 20 metres from the beach in water approximately 1 – 3 metres deep. After snorkelling to Coral Sea Dreaming (an overnight dive boat affiliated with Passions of Paradise) and speaking to the crew, he was then returned to Passions of Paradise. A period of 20 minutes had elapsed before he was back on board Passions of Paradise.
The location has two snorkelling rest stations and there were a number of other snorkellers in the water at that time. A crew member of Coral Sea Dreaming was on snorkel lifeguard watch.
Passions of Paradise utilise a Queensland approved “Dual Active Headcount”. Each passenger is assigned a unique number and their name is attached to that number on a computerised list. The staff member in charge of head counts greets each passenger, asks for the passenger’s name, asks their assigned number, checks that they match and marks it off the list. Once all passengers are identified and marked off, the list is given to the Master of the Vessel. The Master of the Vessel then searches the list for any names not marked off and, if satisfied all passengers are on board, countersigns the list.
This is the company’s standard safety procedure which passed a Workplace Health and Safety audit only two weeks earlier. Staff members in charge of head counts undergo strict training in these procedures before they are allowed to undertake the task.
Passions of Paradise has since taken the initiative to go beyond standard Workplace Health and Safety procedures. This includes utilising two crew members to carry out the final tally count and passengers now sign against their names.
The crew member in charge of the head count on 25 June 2011 has since been dismissed. He speaks and writes fluent English.
In response to the incident on 25 June 2011, Passions of Paradise had direct contact with Mr Ian Cole. This included a number of telephone conversations and text messages. Passions of Paradise also had a face-to-face meeting with Mr Cole on 27 June 2011, where he was shown the head count documentation used that day. On the boat, Passions of Paradise refunded Mr Cole’s ticket, then on 28 June 2011 provided a letter of apology and enclosed a gift of “dinner for two” at a local restaurant to leave him with some happy and positive memories of Cairns.
The Passions of Paradise staff and management are deeply affected by the incident and sincerely regretful.
Passions of Paradise is a small family run business with a close-knit crew and this has affected every single staff member and management personally. Passions of Paradise has been operating for 22 years and has won 14 regional, state and national industry awards during the past 11 years. They have been awarded an Australian Tourism Award for Best Adventure Tour and inducted into the Queensland Tourism hall of fame. Passions of Paradise takes 25,000 passengers annually to the Great Barrier Reef and since the company’s inception has taken almost 400,000 passengers to the reef.
No similar incidents have occurred in this time.