Dive Trip Turns Into Caos as Cook Is Arrested
IT was a trip they will always remember, if only for the wrong reasons.
Guests on board Cairns-based dive vessel Taka were taken for a wild ride last month, with their skipper knocked unconscious, the cook arrested after being hog-tied by the crew and the vessel running aground on the Reef.
Some of the guests describe it as the dive trip from hell, while the operator and industry bosses say it was simply an unfortunate series of events.
For Cairns-based tour desk manager Lucy Elliot and her Perth-based commercial diver partner Shane Ashwell, the “bad vibes” started with being served one rasher of bacon at breakfast in the wake of a difficult night.
But it was after a day of diving, with the vessel working its way towards Osprey Reef – a famed destination the guests never quite reached – that the first real drama unfolded.
The skipper was found knocked out in the wheel house.
Crew then subdued the cook, a 42-year-old Cairns man, and restrained him with cable ties as the vessel headed back to shore.
The alleged offender was arrested and later charged with assault causing bodily harm, possession of a knife and creating a public nuisance.
“He was left out on the dive deck for about five hours while we steamed to Cooktown,” Mr Ashwell said.
Taka and Deep Sea Divers Den marketing manager John Brown acknowledged there had been initial problems with Mr Grant’s culinary efforts, but praised the crew’s actions in difficult circumstances.
“The staff handled an extremely difficult situation in an exemplary manner,” he said.
“I apologise on behalf of the company as to what occurred in regard to the (alleged) violence, it is something we simply could not have anticipated.”
The next morning, the vessel was back at sea with a new skipper.
But just when the remaining crew and 26 guests thought things would settle down, the boat ran on to the reef and became caught in a squall.
Five hours later, the vessel was free and again returned to port, where the grounding was reported to authorities.
Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie said the operators were the oldest diving business in Cairns and had an excellent record.
“But if you had to score it, you couldn’t score it as a positive trip,” he said.
“Often when things go wrong they multiply, as has happened here.”
Despite it all, guest feedback forms show most rated the trip as good.
The cook was scheduled to front Cooktown Court yesterday but failed to appear. It is understood a warrant has been issued for his arrest.