SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - TWO tourists who drifted in shark-infested waters off Australia for 19 hours when a diving trip went wrong have been asked to help pay for their rescue after selling their story, reports said on Monday.
Briton Richard Neely, 38, and his American partner Allyson Dalton, 40, were diving on the Great Barrier Reef last Friday when they became separated from their charter boat.
They were rescued the following morning after a plane taking part in an intensive air-sea search operation spotted them floating several kilometres from where they were last seen.
Australian media reported that the couple sold their survival story to Britain's Sunday Mirror, with one newspaper saying they had been paid about a million dollars.
The reports prompted suggestions that they should pay for their rescue, which involved seven helicopters, three other aircraft and six boats.
Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh, whose territory includes the Great Barrier Reef, backed the idea.
'If they are going to profit from their story I don't think a contribution back would go astray,' Ms Bligh told reporters. 'It would be a very welcome gesture.'
Celebrity agent Max Markson, who has taken on the couple as clients, said their insurance would cover the cost of the rescue but they would also be prepared to make a donation.
'They are covered by insurance so it will cover the cost of the rescue and they will be happy to make any donation necessary,' Mr Markson told the Sydney Morning Herald website.
The experienced divers said they had surfaced too far from the boat for those aboard to see them above the waves or hear their cries for help. -- AFP