Two French tourists die on Great Barrier Reef

The group had been diving from a catamaran operated by Cairns-based Passions of Paradise when the tragedy occurred in the late morning.

The pair, aged 74 and 76, suffered heart attacks and died in the water at Michaelmas Cay, east of Cairns, Australia, on Wednesday.

The lookout on the beach first noticed the man floating motionless and pulled him to the sand, where the staff member performed CPR in a desperate effort to resuscitate him, Garden said.

Passions of Paradise chief executive Scotty Garden said a third person also suffered a medical condition but survived.

Police say the have been called to assist after a tourist died at Agincourt Reef off Cairns and Water Police are en route.

An Australian cardiologist has speculated whether they were stung by highly venomous Irukandji jellyfish but a dive industry representative said there was no sign of jellyfish at the scene.

Col Mckenzie of Queensland state's Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators said the trio were snorkelling, but could not confirm how they died.

"He grabbed her and dragged her onto the boat and commenced resuscitation of her but in both cases they were unsuccessful", he said.

Mr Garden said the company had stationed a lookout on the beach, another on the boat and two guides in the water at the sandy reef island, a little more than 40 kilometres north-east of Cairns.

The company had taken more than 400,000 tourists to the reef since if began operating in 1989, Mr McKenzie added.

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A nurse on board the tour vessel Silversonic tried in vain to revive the man with a defibrillator, a spokeswoman for Queensland ambulance service said. The previous incident happened in 1997 when an 80-year-old person died of a heart condition.

A 60-year-old man on-board the Silver Sonic boat, which leaves from Port Douglas, was found without a regulator while scuba diving at the reef site.

  • Delores Daniels