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Divers agree to help pay for rescue

By ninemsn staff
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Air date: Monday, May 26, 2008
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Diver

A couple who spent 19 hours drifting at sea off Queensland and sold their survival story for up to a reported $1.1 million have agreed to help cover the cost of the rescue.

Richard Neely, 38, from the United Kingdom, and his American partner Allyson Dalton, 40, were diving on the Great Barrier Reef on Friday when they surfaced too far from their chartered boat for those aboard to see them or hear their cries for help.

They were rescued on Saturday morning after a plane spotted them floating 7.8 nautical miles from where they were last seen.

Melbourne's The Age newspaper has reported the couple sold their story for $1.1 million to the UK's Sunday Mirror.

But Brisbane-based couriermail.com.au has said the figure is less than $10,000, and the couple is negotiating interviews with other overseas media that could fetch $250,000.

Dive investigators from Queensland's Office of Workplace Health and Safety are now investigating the dive company, which reportedly took three hours to raise the alarm after realising the couple was missing.

Police have finished their investigation, and have confirmed no charges will be laid.

Debate has now started over whether the dive company or the couple should pick up the bill for the rescue, which involved seven helicopters, three planes and six boats.

Premier Anna Bligh on Sunday joined calls for the couple to contribute to the "extraordinary" effort.

"If they are going to profit from their story I don't think a contribution back would go astray," Ms Bligh told reporters in Ingham, in the state's north.

"It would be a very welcome gesture.

Celebrity agent Max Markson, who has taken on the couple as clients, said on Monday the cost of the rescue would be met by their insurance.

"They are covered by insurance so it will cover the cost of the rescue and they will be happy to make any donation necessary," Mr Markson told smh.com.au.

Some industry figures are also calling for better safety on board dive boats.

CQ Rescue Helicopter general manager Phillip Dowler said the industry should consider using more emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs).

"I would just like to ask, especially probably the charter dive companies, whether it is practical ... to have further EPIRBS for people, or some sort of locating device on the mothership that they're on, to track the people in the water," Mr Dowler told ABC radio.

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