Snorkeller killed by propeller as she searched for turtles

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The Independent Online

A couple paid tribute yesterday to their "much-loved daughter", who was killed in a snorkelling accident in Malaysia.

Joanna Stillwell, 23, was hit by a boat propeller as she looked for turtles with her brother, Nicholas, according to John and Janet Stillwell.

"We are both devastated," Mrs Stillwell said from the family home in Leeds, West Yorkshire. "It's just so tragic. Joanna was a young lady with her whole life before her. So much potential has been wasted and our daughter has been taken from us. She made every second of her life count and she would have had a brilliant future to look forward to."

Joanna, had been snorkelling with Nicholas, 18, off the island of Pulau Redang when the accident happened at around 8am local time on Saturday.

They had been looking for turtles and reef sharks when the propeller from a passing speed boat pierced her chest and legs. She was pulled on to the boat while Nicholas swam back to the beach to tell his parents what had happened.

Mr and Mrs Stillwell arrived at the scene just minutes later, but Joanne was already dead.

"We were just minutes away, oblivious to what was happening. It's so ironic because she was doing something she loved so much," said Mr Stillwell, who is a professor of migration and regional development at the University of Leeds.

Joanna had been travelling the world after graduating from Sheffield University in July 2002 with an honours degree in geography and politics studies. She had back-packed through South-east Asia and been travelling in Australia for eight months before returning to Malaysia to join her family.