Australia: Tiny jellyfish may have killed couple

Thimble'sized irukandji jellyfish. Picture: Getty
Thimble'sized irukandji jellyfish. Picture: Getty
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A COUPLE who died simultaneously while snorkelling in Australia may have been killed by the irukandji jellyfish – one of the world’s most venomous creatures.

Kathreen Ricketson, 41, and Robert Shrugg, 48, were spotted by their two children floating face down off a remote beach in Western Australia last week.

The children, Orlando, ten, and Otilija, 13, raised the alarm and were forced to watch as beachgoers tried but failed to save their mother. Authorities yesterday called off the search for their missing father.

Police said they were not treating the deaths as suspicious, adding both parents were reportedly “competent swimmers”.

Officials now think the pair, from Canberra, could have been killed by tiny irukandji jellyfish. There have been numerous sightings and stings in the area where the couple were snorkelling, around the Ningaloo Reef.

The state’s environment department recently issued a warning that irukandji had reached the reef and people had been admitted to hospital. The department warned swimmers to exercise extreme caution or stay out of the water.

Ms Ricketson’s body was yesterday being flown to Perth where a coroner will try to determine whether her death was caused by an irukandji.