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    3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Divers recover last of 3 bodies missing in wreck off Key Largo; all 3 ID'd

    By Sofia Santana
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    March 17, 2007, 4:51 PM EDT

    KEY LARGO -- The Monroe County Sheriff's Office on Saturday afternoon said the bodies of all three missing divers have been recovered and identified the men who died diving on the sunken hulk of the USS Spiegel Grove a day earlier as Kevin Coughlin, 51, of Chatham Borough, N.J., Scott Stanley, age not available, and Jonathan Walsweer, 38, both of Westfield, N.J.

    The diver who surfaced safely from the dive was identified as Howard Spralter, no age available, also of Westfield, N.J.

    MSO spokeswoman Becky Herrin said the diver who surfaced on Friday, but was pronounced dead on arrival at Mariner's Hospital, was Coughlin. While the two divers whose bodies trapped inside the wreck were Stanley and Walsweer.

    MSO announced around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday that divers had recovered a body from the wreck and had brought it to the surface just before noon. It was transported to the Islamorada Coast Guard Station.

    The second body was recovered just before 4 p.m. Saturday.

    Both bodies were transported to the Islamorada Coast Guard Station. Both bodies are being transported to Key West so the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office can perform autopsies to determine the exact cause of death.

    The tragedy began on Friday.

    Three of the scuba divers squeezed their way though the silt-filled narrow hallways and doorways inside the sunken Navy ship off Key Largo on Friday, venturing about 135 feet down into a corner so deep, dark and tight that it killed them.

    The four unidentified divers were experienced and certified to dive shipwrecks, and had performed a dive on the ship Thursday without incident, authorities said. But the complexity and length of their adventure late Friday morning appears to have been more of a thrill-seeking stunt, the likes of which would appeal to someone who would climb Mount Everest, said Doc Schweinler, owner of Ocean Divers in Key Largo.

    "I think they're the first ones to go in that deep since the wreck was sunk," Schweinler said. "Even advanced divers would not try to do what they did."

    That's the tricky task Key Largo Fire Rescue faces.

    They'll have to descend about 70 feet into the ocean to reach the deck of the 510-foot shipwreck. Once they enter the wreck, they'll have about 35 minutes to enter the ship, go down another 60 to 70 feet and swim 80 to 90 feet inside the crowded ship -- and then get back to the surface, said Fire Rescue Chief Sergio Garcia.

    The bodies are "in a very, very tightly confined area," Garcia said. "Even the path to get to them is confined, almost like a maze."

    The recovery effort could further be complicated by the strong currents common off Key Largo, Garcia said, adding that the swells were 8 feet Friday.

    The Speigel Grove sits about 6 miles off the eastern coast of Key Largo and attracts hundreds of thousands of divers each year, according to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

    The vessel, a Navy landing ship built in the 1960s, was deliberately sunk in May 2002 to create an artificial reef.

    The sinking went awry when the vessel unexpectedly flipped upside down, eventually settling on the ocean floor on its side.

    In July 2005, 20-foot waves from Hurricane Dennis displaced enough sand from the ocean floor to push the wreck upright, much to the delight of divers who thought having the ship upright made it easier to explore, inside and out.

    Most divers view the wreck from the outside, particularly the deck, with only the most skilled cautiously venturing inside for minutes at a time.

    Given the large numbers of divers the boat attracts, relatively few people have had diving emergencies there, said Garcia, but he warned that the wreck does pose hazards.

    "Once you get down there you start kicking up silt and the visibility becomes very poor," said Garcia, who has dived the wreck.

    It's for this reason that anyone who wants to venture into an underwater wreck needs to get special diving certification to do so.

    "When you go for wreck certification, we teach you how to tie lines off so, so when you're running around to come out, you have a way to come out," said Carolyn Windus, an open water instructor at Divers Unlimited in Pembroke Pines. "There's also a special way to kick, so you don't churn up silt."

    Investigators were trying to confirm Friday whether the four divers had used a rope to trace their path in the wreck.

    They were certified to dive wrecks and had additional training that earned each of them the title of "technical diver."

    Such divers are trained to go deeper than 170 feet, while regular divers usually wouldn't go deeper than 130 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Technical divers fill their tanks with a mixture of gases so they can stay deeper more safely, instead of the compressed air that other divers use.

    The lone survivor in the group waited by the entrance to the wreck while his three friends made their way inside, said Becky Herrin, spokeswoman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

    But when he began to run out of air, he left the wreck and swam to the surface, she said.

    The diver told the captain of the Key Largo-based Scuba-Do dive boat that his three friends were still inside the wreck. Two divers from another boat jumped into the water and retrieved one of the men from the Speigel Grove, but the man died later at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, Herrin said.

    The U.S. Coast Guard, already spread thin from an all-out search off Fort Lauderdale for a cruise ship passenger who went overboard but later was found alive, launched a search off Key Largo in case the two missing divers made it to the surface.

    They didn't.

    Key Largo Fire Rescue divers entered the Spiegel Grove and found the bodies inside a small room at the bottom and far end of the wreck just after 2 p.m. Friday. At least 57 diving deaths in the United States and Canada were reported to the Divers Alert Network in 2006, with a third of the dead identified as technical divers, according to data compiled by the network, a non-profit that promotes dive safety.

    On Feb. 4, another experienced scuba diver had complications while diving on the Spiegel Grove. David Hargis, 48, of Kansas City, Mo., died later that day at a Keys hospital.

    Friday's accident brings the death toll for explorers of the Spiegel Grove to six since its sinking, The Associated Press said police reports indicate.

    Assistant Director of Photography Taimy Alvarez, Staff Writer Steve Waters, Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Sofia Santana can be reached at svsantana@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4631.

    Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Last edited by Louby Lou; 17th March 2007 at 23:53. Reason: Removed advertisement image

  2. #2
    Banned MB is an unknown quantity at this point MB's Avatar
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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    (1): Not rebreather divers.

    (2): On single tanks.

    (3): No reels.

    (4): Silted it out.

    (5): One buddy pair got out, the other did not.

    (6): Diver "1" of the pair that got out went back in to "assist" while Diver "2" of that pair waited at the exit.

    (7): Diver "2" stayed there until he was out of air, surfaced and was picked up by a boat.

    (8): One diver from Buddy Pair "B" was found (dead) near the exit.

    (9): The other diver from Buddy Pair (B) and Diver "1" from the other buddy pair were found (dead) deep inside.

    (10): Looks like Diver "1" from the first pair went back in when he realized the other team was past due, found the other pair, got one of them back to the exit and then went back in for the other one.

    (11): No real lesson to be learned other than that if you do penetration work without sufficient air you'll die.

    (12): They were local divers and were at the shop Weds night last week to buy air.

    (13): Color me pissed.... I hate to lose people we know. It was a needless accident. Just bad stuff all around. More errors made than I have fingers.


    All data taken from interview with survivor.


    If they had been on RB's they would all have a story to tell. Single tanks? Not for this work.

    Add this to the fact that a friend managed to fly a fighter straight down into the ground at about 400 MPH on Friday, turning himself into a little bit of ash in the middle of a huge fireball. This week has not been a good one.




    Dave
    Last edited by MB; 18th March 2007 at 21:02.

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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Dave,

    Sorry about your friend...

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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Hi Dave,

    I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend and my prays go for him and his family.

    Regards,
    Michael Netto - www.megalodonbrasil.com.br
    ISC Megalodon CCR Dealer and IT
    Sentinel and Cislunar MK6 CCR Instructor
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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Dave,
    I am sorry to hear all that bad news.

    RBN

  6. #6
    Banned MB is an unknown quantity at this point MB's Avatar
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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    It's "just the way it is". I now have 35 photos of dead fighter pilots on my wall. All killed themselves and none were betrayed by their machines. This is why I stress training, experience, and expert level knowlage of rebreathers as a prerequisite for my respect of a rebreather diver. It's the mistakes that we make that kill us, not our hardware. Flying and diving are perfect parallels in this regard. I don't even get depressed over this stuff. I get angry at them for being dumb. It's probably a defense mechanism.

    They were customers of the dive shop that I frequent, not friends per-se. I knew none of them personally. Just bad stuff for them to make so many errors in sequence. The leader was a well known instructor with good qualifications. Between he and Kevin J's buddy who got killed under the ice (also an Instructor) all I can say is that complacency kills.


    Stay safe guys and gals. Don't be dumb. May I opine? This has *nothing* to do with the mishap here and *everything* to do with a mishap that I believe will occur soon. Using hypoxic diluents on shallow dives is DUMB. I don't want to be writing about the mishap after it occurs. I see an accident waiting to happen. *Please* quit it (and *please* don't bring it aboard my boat... and I don't care how easy it is to mix... we're not on some tiny island someplace with no way to mix gas) Opinion mode off now...


    Dave
    Last edited by MB; 19th March 2007 at 07:57.

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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Well said Dave - I need to update my article with this and a few other things.

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    RBW Member CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT is a glorious beacon of light CharlieT's Avatar
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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave ******  View Original Post
    It's "just the way it is". I now have 35 photos of dead fighter pilots on my wall. All killed themselves and none were betrayed by their machines. This is why I stress training, experience, and expert level knowlage of rebreathers as a prerequisite for my respect of a rebreather diver. It's the mistakes that we make that kill us, not our hardware. Flying and diving are perfect parallels in this regard. I don't even get depressed over this stuff. I get angry at them for being dumb. It's probably a defense mechanism.

    They were customers of the dive shop that I frequent, not friends per-se. I knew none of them personally. Just bad stuff for them to make so many errors in sequence. The leader was a well known instructor with good qualifications. Between he and Kevin J's buddy who got killed under the ice (also an Instructor) all I can say is that complacency kills.


    Stay safe guys and gals. Don't be dumb. May I opine? This has *nothing* to do with the mishap here and *everything* to do with a mishap that I believe will occur soon. Using hypoxic diluents on shallow dives is DUMB. I don't want to be writing about the mishap after it occurs. I see an accident waiting to happen. *Please* quit it (and *please* don't bring it aboard my boat... and I don't care how easy it is to mix... we're not on some tiny island someplace with no way to mix gas) Opinion mode off now...


    Dave
    Thank you for your clearly conveyed opinions as always. ;)

    Charlie

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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    I am sorry about the loss of your friends.

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    Re: 3 divers' die key lago wreck

    First of all I would like to send condolences to the families of the three divers in Florida. It is unfortunate that they made a decision like this on a dive that ended up so wrong. And also condolences to Dave's friend family, as well to you Dave.

    I have never had words with you Dave, but i have read threads you have contributed to, as well as started, and have learned a ton. Thank you for your knowledge and insight. I hope one day to make it up north and dive with you, shake your hand, and mabye have a beer--that is after the dives are done.

    And a thank you as well to all contributors to this site. It has proven an invaluable resource to a begining rebreather diver. Sorry for the hijak, but I wanted all to know how important this site is. Thanks

    James

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