Dive instructor sues for $1.6m over starfish injury
A DIVE instructor who has virtually lost the use of his hand after being stung by a crown-of-thorns starfish is suing his former employer Tusa Dive for more than $1.6m.
Danyon Shaun Roderique-Trask claims his employer did not tell him how toxic they were.
The 23-year-old used his diving rod to spear the pest while leading a tour at Hastings Reef in April 2016, but when he reached the surface it slipped down the rod and its spines penetrated his hand.
He suffered many puncture wounds to his right hand, severe toxic injury and scarring, taking to Facebook at the time to describe it as "the most intense pain Iv (sic) ever felt" after the creature's "poisonous barbs punctured me in 14 different places on top of my hand".
A claim lodged in the Cairns Supreme Court by legal representatives for the native New Zealander said removing COTS was common practice for Tusa dive instructors.
The documents said instructors would bring the starfish back to the vessel to be euthanised with chemicals before being shown to tourists and dumped overboard.
"He did not know that crown-of-thorns starfish had venomous spines and were dangerous for him to collect and handle," the claim said.
Crown-of-thorns starfish (also known as COTS) are marine invertebrates that feed on coral and, along with cyclones, are considered the major reason for coral losses.
Mr Roderique-Trask has since undergone eight surgical procedures on his right hand and required extensive hand therapy, but continued to suffer pain and discomfort requiring medication and will get early osteoarthritis.
"(He has) lost much of the use and function of his right hand," the claim said.
He posted on Facebook about four months after the incident: "I definitely learnt my lesson. Just don't touch s--t."
It said after working in Cairns he intended to return to NZ and train to become a commercial diver, but was now unable to complete the training.
The $1.68 million figure claimed included his lost potential earnings as a commercial diver along with ongoing treatment.
"(He is) only able to do work of a light/sedentary nature," the claim said.
"The plaintiff will be at a considerable disadvantage on the open labour market."
Mr Roderique-Trask's legal representative said his employer, Tusa Dive, owed him a duty of care to provide a safe work environment and should not have been allowing instructors to collect the starfish.
A spokesman for Entrada Travel Group, Tusa Dive's parent company, said the incident occurred under the previous ownership of Tusa.
"Entrada Travel Group acquired the business in January 2018 and are therefore unable to comment further," he said.
A court date is yet to be set.