Diver asked to contribute to rescue costs after selling story to press

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The Independent Online

A British diver who survived 19 hours in shark-infested waters has said he is "happy to donate" to the cost of the rescue operation but denied responsibility for the incident.

Richard Neely, 38, and his American girlfriend, Alison Dalton, 40, survived a night floating off Australia's Great Barrier Reef after becoming separated from their boat. The Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, said the couple should contribute to the cost of the rescue, which involved seven helicopters, three planes and six boats.

The call came after it emerged that Mr Neely, from Swaffham, Norfolk, had sold the story to a British newspaper. In an interview with Australia's Nine Network, Mr Neely denied having ignored a safety briefing by drifting out away from the dive site.

The couple said they surfaced to find themselves 200 metres from the boat. They tied themselves together and tried to share body heat. By the early hours, they were freezing, weak and suffering hallucinations. They were found on Saturday nine miles from the dive site.

The cost of launching an all-weather lifeboat has been estimated at £5,800.

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