Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook
Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook

Boat tragedy: Lover to stand trial for death

A MAN who held his unconscious lover afloat following a horrific crash on a romantic Gold Coast getaway will stand trial for her death.

Bryce Stewart Semple fronted the Southport Magistrates Court briefly yesterday charged with operating a vessel unsafely, causing death.

His lawyer said he would argue the tragedy was an accident.

Semple's make-up artist partner Jess Murray, 33, was killed less than a kilometre from the luxury Couran Cove resort just after sunset in May 2017.

The 4m tinnie the couple were travelling in collided with an 11m cruiser, knocking Ms Murray unconscious and overboard.

Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook
Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook

Dazed and with a broken pelvis among other injuries, Semple dived into the water in a desperate attempt to save his girlfriend, authorities said at the time.

Passengers on the cruiser also jumped into the water to help pull Ms Murray to safety.

Miss Murray was taken to a jetty at the nearby Couran Cove where CPR was performed until emergency services arrived.

She could not be revived despite Volunteer Marine Rescue officers, water police and paramedics all working to save her.

Semple, a long-time contractor at Couran Cove, was taken to Gold Coast University Hospital for treatment to multiple broken bones and a head injury.

Jess Murray, 33, was tragically killed in a boating accident. Photo: Facebook.
Jess Murray, 33, was tragically killed in a boating accident. Photo: Facebook.

Following a police investigation, Semple and the cruiser's skipper, Mark Andrew Sonter, 48, were charged with operating their vessels unsafely.

Both were charged with one count each of breaching the general obligation on persons involved with the operation of a ship to operate it safely causing death or grievous bodily harm.

The offence under the Marine Safety Act carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

Sonter will face a committal hearing for the matter at the Southport Magistrates Court on March 5.

Semple was also charged with driving a vessel while a relevant drug was present in blood or saliva.

Police allege Semple had a type of amphetamine and cannabis in his system, but he was not under the influence at the time of driving.

Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook
Jess Murray was tragically killed in a boating accident near Couran Cove. Photo: Facebook

Defence lawyer Campbell MacCallum, of Moloney MacCallum Abdelshahied Lawyers, said Semple planned to fight the charges.

Mr MacCallum said Semple was devastated by the death of his partner.

"Bryce was extremely distressed at the death of his partner of many years, he was holding her in the water before she was pulled out," Mr MacCallum said.

"Then he had to deal with his own horrific injuries.

"When asked by police about what happened he freely and voluntary had to relive that in a long interview.

"Now he's been charged with an offence which carries a potential term or imprisonment."

He said Semple would argue that the crash was accidental.

"We're defending the case on the basis that first it was and accident and second we weren't at fault," Mr MacCallum said.

"On our view of the evidence we're not at fault through any negligent operation of the vessel."

In the months after Miss Murray's death her mother Rosemaree said she had not yet come to terms with the loss.

"It's a struggle but we're sort of trying to get back into what will be our normal," she said in 2017.



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