Nuku’alofa – August 19, 2019: 7am (Nuku’alofa Times): A New Zealander who operatesÂ a local whale swim and dive operation in Nuku’alofa has had his license suspended.
Jeff Laurie, who operates the Whale Swim & Dive Tours, was the Dive Guide that led an illegal dive on Sunday, August 11 in ‘Eua, resulting in the death of a German tourist.
This has been clarified by the Tongatapu Whale Watching Associationa.
Association President ‘Ofa Tu’ikolovatu made the statement at the weekend, following reports about the incident in the local and overseas media.
German tourist, Marina Trost, was lost at sea around ‘Eua on Sunday and her body has not been recovered since.
“New Zealand Owner, Jeff Laurie, of Whale Swim & Dive Tours, was the Scuba Guide in the Diving Accident and has had his Operator License Suspended by the Ministry of Tourism,” Mrs Tu’iokolovatu said. Â
“We would like the following details to be clarified regarding serious breaches of the Whale Watching Rules and Regulations that led to the suspension of Jeff Laurieâ€™s Operator License for Whale Swim & Dive Tours.
“Jeff Laurie, of Whale Swim & Dive Tours, did not have a licensed skipper on board his boat, as is required by law, and critical for the safety during Dive Expeditions, as they are responsible for monitoring divers coming to the surface and are able to pick them up out of the water.
“Jeff Laurie, of Whale Swim & Dive Tours, is not permitted to operate on â€˜Eua.”
Mrs Tu;ikolovatu said this is not the first time Jeff Laurie, of Whale Swim & Dive Tours, has made breaches of the regulations.
Missing German Diver, Marina Trost, apparently ran out of air in her scuba tank during the dive.
Mrs Tu’ikolovatu said following the diving accident on Sunday, August 11, Mr Laurie continued to operate tours on Monday, August 12 until the Ministry of Tourism was notified.
The Ministry then suspended his license and informed him to cease operations immediately.
Police have been taking statements from witnesses and are working with the Ministry of Tourism.
Tonga Police said a full investigation is underway.