Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Monday, 26 May 2008 09:05 UK

Lost divers 'should pay rescue'

A still from video footage of the rescued divers

Australian authorities have suggested that two foreign divers rescued after 18 hours in the sea should pay towards the cost of saving them.

Briton Richard Neely, 38, and American Allison Dalton, 40, were separated from their boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

The rescue operation off the coast of Queensland involved seven helicopters, three planes and six boats.

State premier Anna Bligh suggested Mr Neely foot some of the bill after he sold his story to a UK Sunday tabloid.

'Don't mention sharks'

The divers became lost on Friday when they resurfaced 200 metres from their dive boat after exploring a reef.

But they were not seen by crew or other divers on the boat and a strong current carried them away.


Rescue crews find the divers

At one stage a venomous snake reared in Ms Dalton's face, and they feared they would be attacked by sharks.

"I truly thought we were going to die. Sharks were on our mind the entire time - but neither of us mentioned the 'S' word," Mr Neely, of Swaffham, Norfolk, told the Sunday Mirror.

"We were shouting and whistling but nobody saw us. We saw other divers climbing back on to the boat. The boat stayed where it was, on a mooring, but we just kept drifting further away. There was nothing we could do."


After the rescue, the couple were flown to hospital where they were in good spirits despite suffering mild hypothermia.

The couple's only media interview so far has been with the Sunday Mirror, for which they were rumoured to have been paid more than $1m (533,000).

The pair's agent, celebrity publicist Max Markson, said that figure was inflated. He said other interviews with international media were in the works.

The rumour of large interview fees has sparked calls for the couple to pay towards the cost of their rescue.

"If they are going to profit from their story I don't think a contribution back would go astray," said Queensland premier Ms Bligh.

But Mr Markson said the couple's insurance would cover the cost of the rescue.

Great Barrier Reef divers found
24 May 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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