Shannon Sanderson sits quietly in the front row of an unassuming courtroom in Cairns, pen in hand, diligently taking notes as witnesses give their evidence one by one.

Their testimony is crucial in uncovering what happened in the lead-up to the terrifying moment Ms Sanderson’s husband Dean fell to his death from a zipline in the Daintree Rainforest in October 2019.

It was meant to be a fun holiday for the Adelaide couple when the zipline failed at Cape Tribulation, killing the father-of-three and seriously injuring his wife.

This week, the former director of Keydane, formerly Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours at Cape Tribulation stood trial in the Cairns Magistrates Court, defending a charge of failure to comply with workplace health and safety regulations, exposing a person to risk of death or serious injury.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is prosecuting Sheena Mary Walshaw, who could face penalties of up to $300,000 if found guilty.

Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours ceased operating the zip-line after the fatal incident at Cape Tribulation.(Facebook: Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours)

Ms Sanderson was in a separate harness to her husband at the time of the fall.

Questions over installation

Four-and-a-half years on, Ms Sanderson spent this week surrounded by family members as she listened to the evidence before Cairns magistrate Kevin Priestly.

The prosecution’s argument centred around whether Ms Walshaw failed as a director of the company to prevent exposure to harm.

That included establishing the level of her involvement in the design of the cabling system, what fixtures were chosen, and installation of that cabling system by people unlicensed in advanced rigging.

Engineer Stuart Davis told the court a calibrated torque wrench — a tool for tightening nuts and bolts using a specific torque — was the tool recommended for wire rope grips, the type of zipline fixture chosen.

The operations manager of the company at the time of the accident, James Aaron Dalzell, told the Cairns Magistrates Court he used a ring spanner and socket wrench to install a cable at the platform where Mr Sanderson later fatally launched from.

Police at the scene of the accident in Cape Tribulation on October 23, 2019.(ABC News: Marian Faa)

Barrister Glen Rice KC, acting on behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, asked Mr Dalzell if he had used a torque wrench at the time of installation.

“Was the torque wrench used by you at any stage?” Mr Rice asked.

“No,” Mr Dalzell responded.

“Is there one on site?”


“Did you see anyone else use a torque wrench for this installation?


Defence says ‘no evidence’ of link

However, defence Senior Counsel David Mclure argued the prosecution had failed to establish a causal link to the alleged failure of Ms Walshaw in her workplace health and safety duties.

“The real and commonsense creation of the risk here was because sometime between installation and the end of the charge period, May 1 2019, there is a possibility, [Mr Rice] said, that the nuts on the wire rope grips were not appropriately tightened,” Mr Mclure said.

“And to that there is absolutely no evidence.”

Mr Mclure also argued a workplace health and safety system had been established and followed by Ms Walshaw, by employing a previous operations manager, Leigh Peter Gallon, who had left Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours by the time the incident occurred.

Mr Mclure said Mr Gallon “had primary responsibility for work health and safety” in his role and Ms Walshaw was “entitled to have confidence in Mr Gallon doing his job properly”.

Magistrate Priestly has adjourned his decision, and will decide on the verdict delivery date in the next week.