JARROD’S LAST DIVE FOR PEARLS
The lure of pearls – rare, iridescent jewels of the sea – has been documented since Biblical times.
“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every gate was of one pearl: and the streets of the city were pure gold, as if transparent glass.” Revelation 21.21. These are the famed “Pearly Gates” of heaven.
The lust for pearls endures in many of the world’s cultures.
But are they worth dying for? Is Australia’s pearl diving industry, now worth an estimated $200 million, as safe as it should be?
On April 14 this year, Jarrod Hampton was diving for pearl shell off Australia’s north-west coast. His second day of diving turned out to be, tragically, his last.
Should the pearling trade have stricter safety measures and work practices?
Here, just for The Hoopla, his heartbroken parents, Tony and Robyn, remember their son and have questions to ask of the pearling industry…
As Jarrod, our 22 year-old eldest son, bravely strode into the tunnel to board his Darwin-bound flight from Melbourne, without looking back, we had no idea this would be the last time we would see him alive.
Jarrod was heading to Darwin to begin his employment as a diver with Paspaley Pearling – firstly, a few weeks carrying out maintenance on the boat and attending the induction course, before motoring around to Broome where he would commence diving for pearl shells.
We didn’t know he wasn’t covered by any general Australian-wide workplace safety standards. His contract only made mention of the standards formulated and imposed by the Pearl Producers Association.
But we all knew it was a dangerous job.
Diving is a hazardous occupation. The induction course emphasised many of the dangers that might be encountered and that divers would be pushed to the limits of their physical endurance.
Whilst we certainly had concerns about these conditions, we took comfort that the company said it had “world class safety standards” and of course we knew that they were the biggest pearling operator in the country, with a good safety record.
On the 14th of April, 2012, Jarrod’s second day of drift diving, he encountered problems that would have contributed to fatigue. Midway through his eighth dive of the day he surfaced and called for assistance, which was acknowledged by the crew on the boat.
As Four Corners reported, crews have no instruction of rescue/retrieval of a diver in distress, there was no method of lifting an unconscious diver onto the boat and there was no defibrillator on board.
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