Divers 'should contribute to rescue costs'

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A British diver and his American girlfriend who survived a night floating in shark-infested waters off Australia's Great Barrier Reef are being asked to help pay for their rescue.

It was reported that Richard Neely, 38, and Alison Dalton, 40, sold the story of their 19-hour ordeal to the Sunday Mirror for more than half a million pounds.

But Queensland Premier Anna Bligh suggested that the couple should contribute to the costs of the operation, which involved seven helicopters, three planes and six boats.

"If they are going to profit from their story I don't think a contribution back would go astray. It would be a very welcome gesture," she said.

The pair were winched to safety on Saturday nine miles from where they had been diving near the Whitsunday Islands off the eastern coast.

They said they resurfaced after diving on a reef and found themselves 200 metres from their chartered dive boat and out of sight of its crew.

"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 told the Sunday Mirror.

"We just had to stay positive and calm to help each other through the ordeal and not think about being eaten alive."

Queensland police have begun an investigation into how the couple were left behind.

Queensland Water Police acting superintendent Shane Chelepy said: "We're going to take statements from everyone on board that vessel and then there will be the normal issues of taking possession of all of the equipment for further examination."