Narcosis Charters; WPB FL, LOST Diver Today?

Discussion in 'Accidents and Incidents' started by dumpsterDiver, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. dumpsterDiver

    dumpsterDiver Scuba Instructor

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    Today I was out diving and heard on the radio that the Narcosis Dive charter out of West Palm Beach reported a lost diver. We listened on the radio for quite a while. The dive boat was searching for the diver, it sounded like other charter boats were also looking on the surface.

    The police helicopter was searching the surface and the USCG had at least one vessel deployed in the search.

    The police helo left the scene after many passes and the CG helo was enroute after the other aircraft left.

    Conditions today were PERFECT less than 1 foot seas all morning and about a 1.5-2 kt current on the surface, winds were probably less than 5 mph.

    After a few hours, it sounded like the dive boats were assuming the worst and began doing underwater sweeps (obviously with the intent of making a body recovery). I think at least one private vessel was deploying divers to search as well.

    We were diving offshore of the scene and could see the boats and helo etc. After being lost for hours, I was pretty sure that the diver was dead, because the surface conditions were super calm, clear skies, and no restriction on visibility. I figured there is absolutely no way a diver could have gotten away from a charter boat on a recreational drift dive (I think the depth was 75 ft or so), to the extent that even a helicopter could not spot him.

    I was making my way over to the scene, the Narcosis boat was dropping more divers and they sounded like they were appreciative of any help with searching of the bottom by other boats. I was preparing to do a dive and sweep the area, when we heard on the radio that the lost diver had actually made it to MacArthur Beach Park and had walked up on the beach and made a phone call from there! Thank GOD.

    That is incredible, the distance is roughly 3 miles north (down current) from the dive site and the diver must have swam in (across the current) a distance of close to a mile (rough estimates).

    Does anybody know what the story is? It is absolutely amazing to me that the diver's drift pattern was apparently not predicted accurately and that he wasn't spotted on the surface under these ideal conditions this morning.

    How does somebody get lost on the surface, in perfect conditions, for apparently hours and nobody is looking in the right place for him?
     
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  2. Insta-Gator

    Insta-Gator Surface Interval Member

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    Happy ending to a bizarre story. Surely someone knew the current direction and speed and had a watch.
     
  3. Reef_Haven

    Reef_Haven Barracuda

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    Hope he didn't get cited for failing to stay within 100 yds of a dive flag!:D
    I wonder where the original drop was? Where his buddy was? How long it took Narcosis to realize he was missing?
    Doesn't seem like he had a safety sausage. Lucky he wasn't hit by a boat. Amazing he wasn't spotted by anyone.
     
  4. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Loggerhead Turtle

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    It's a really big ocean and divers are really small wearing gear that blends into the surroundings.

    Additionally, if you misjudge the position lost and/or the drift rate the target may be outside the search area. You would assume the diver was near the boat, but say he was following the pretty fish, taking pictures, kicking with the current for an hour. Upon surfacing he would probably not even see the boat, just the search choppers.


    Bob
    ----------------------------
    I may be old, but I’m not dead yet.
     
  5. deeper thoughts

    deeper thoughts Orca

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  6. danvolker

    danvolker SFDJ Dive Team

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    I was out then on the Shearwater, and the current was not all that large either...I am looking forward to hearing this account directly, but as of this moment, I can only think the diver was swimming west looking for patch reef, oblivious to the normal mandate that you stay "near" the reefline, trending south to north...For him not to be seen in those conditions, he would have to have come up ridiculously far west of where divers surface, and then must have chosen to swim toward beach, rather than swim toward the main reef area after the corridor...
    Pure conjecture, a fast swimming diver "could" get pretty close to shore, swimming with a mostly West direction, in the course of an hour long bottom time.... I can't wait to hear what the real story on this is !!!
     
  7. danvolker

    danvolker SFDJ Dive Team

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    I just spoke to the Captain of Narcosis, Van..
    1. Everyone was asked if they had a safety sausage multiple times, and everyone on the boat said they did...... Narcosis HAS sausages for anyone that does not have their own....As you know, no sausage went up, no one saw him.
    2. This guy left his buddy, and disappeared soon after the dive began.
    3. Apparently he headed West, most likely right from the beginning of the dive....
    4. He stayed down for around an hour and 20 minutes, which is well longer then the dive site briefing allowed, which also means this would put him far from all other divers, if swimming throughout the dive
    5. In all liklihood, he made it almost to the beach, before surfacing..not that hard to do from the area known as the Corridor.
    6. He got a ride from MacArthur Park to PBSO and then to the dock to get his gear, and he slipped away.... without even a word to Van about the huge mess he made by not following the briefing, and having multiple helicopters and boats dispatched to search for him.. No appology, nothing.
    With all the boats and copters, if he had been anywhere near the areas divers dive in, he would have been spotted.... It almost begs the question, did this guy "purposely navigate due west, and stay down for an hour and 20 minutes, so that he could say he swam to shore ?? ".... I would love to hear from him :)
     
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  8. Splitlip

    Splitlip Surface Interval Member

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    I was thinking along those lines as well. I too can't wait to hear the story.

    Edit: That was fast Dan. :)
     
  9. Reef_Haven

    Reef_Haven Barracuda

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    Just curious,
    If he spoke to noone when he picked up his gear, How do you know he stayed down 1 hr 20?
    Must have been one boring sand dive, there isn't any reef to speak of NW of the corridor is there? Does kinda sound on purpose.
    Was he missed immediately after the other divers surfaced?
     
  10. danvolker

    danvolker SFDJ Dive Team

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    I think the dive duration came from the interview with PBSO....not sure, but it was admitted as being well beyond the guidelines allowed.

    There are patches and rubble that can interest a diver heading west( for a while) , but not all the way in to the beach..at some point he would have to have known he was so far west of where he was supposed to be, that no one would be looking any where near where he was....
    MAYBE this guy wanted to be able to brag that he had swum to shore from the wreck dive.........but considering the cost of helicopters, police boats, coast guard boats, and other dive boats which had to respond and drop what they were doing to look for him, this wAS REALLY NOT cool.

    To put this in perspective, if he had just kept swimming over the normal reef line area, heading north with the current, he would have been seen by someone in "minutes", particularly on a day like this with flat calm seas. There were boats all along that reefline, Sunday morning when this happened.... Instead, he went directly sideways to the current, which is an effort, and must have purposely "navigated" west to stay on this course....to get this far from the reef line area all divers stay in.....
    This just sounds "fishy" to me :)
     
  11. dumpsterDiver

    dumpsterDiver Scuba Instructor

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    Turns out I know someone on the boat. The guy did not try to swim away from the boat or swim west underwater etc. as indicated by some others.:shakehead:

    The story is much more mundane than that.

    I got some information from a person on the boat. They were diving the Corridor which I estimate to be roughly 1/3 mile (or more) stretch of wrecks and other artificial material dumped in a north/ south orientation. Depth is 75-80 feet. The lost diver was with a buddy for 25 minutes doing a normal dive over the structure. The diver did not try to deliberately swim west and be lost from the boat.


    The diver was experienced and was repeatedly asked by more than one person if they had a safety sausage (smb). Diver knew it was required, yet both he and his female buddy did not have them.

    The lost diver’s buddy ascended after approximately 30 minutes of time underwater and reported that separation from her buddy occurred at approximately the 25 minute mark (just 5 minutes before getting on the boat).

    This information was relayed to the dive operator, so they knew the guy was alone and would therefore be alerted to look for him. There was no indication that there was a serious problem, just a simple buddy separation.

    The lost diver was experienced and was diving with a high pressure, large capacity single steel tank. I did not get any information about how long he was submerged.

    Everyone else was picked up from the drift dive and things were uneventful with the exception of the now confirmed missing/over-due diver.

    The boat began to search north (down current). Later the vessel operator reported the diver as lost.

    The lost diver is reported to have drifted north, saw all the vessels and helo looking for him and waived from the surface but was not observed. HE DID NOT HAVE A SMB as required by the boat operator.

    Eventually a kayaker saw him and TOWED him a considerable distance inshore to the park.

    We did observe some kayakers far offshore that day.

    Still doesn’t really explain why he was never found under such perfect conditions by all the resources deployed that day.
     
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  12. danvolker

    danvolker SFDJ Dive Team

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    It is very strange.... I was on Shearwater when this happened, and we ran north of the corridor after this had happened...you could see divers from other boats from a very long way off..as I was watching scuba clubs people bobbing up and down repeately, with amusement :)

    If a kayaker picked him up, he must still have been way west.....I will ask around tommorow and see if anyone remembers seeing the kayaks, and where they were in relation to the beach. :)
     
  13. Reef_Haven

    Reef_Haven Barracuda

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    Way to look out for your separated female buddy!:shakehead:
     
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  14. cgvmer

    cgvmer Surface Interval Member

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    Now that is same ocean buddy. What ever happened to the lost buddy drill of look around for a minute then safely surface.
     
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  15. danvolker

    danvolker SFDJ Dive Team

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    This guy needs his own special tee shirt....It will say " Your on your own Dive Team or YOYODT :D
     
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  16. WSOPFAN

    WSOPFAN Barracuda

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    Fishy indeed........
     
  17. Tricia

    Tricia Barracuda

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    Thanks to Dan and Dumpster for keeping us updated on this one. We now know the real story is not as awful as it first sounded, but I still think this guy is a creep for not coming up and thanking people for looking for him. When I think of the time and money involved searching for him (not to mention the fact that another diver could have been injured while searching), I want to scream!

    I'm curious to see if the government authorities try to bill him for the search. I think they should. It sounds like he didn't even do the standard lost buddy protocol when he got separated. This was just dumb.

    Trish
     
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  18. crbbndiver

    crbbndiver Angel Fish

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    OK...Now for the real story. I was on Narcosis that day (one of the divers doing the recovery dive) and have gotten the real version since. All that has been said before about the day is accurate. The conditions were ideal for diving. There is no way that an inexperienced captain could lose a diver, much less Van. The diver accepted an assist to shore from a Kayaker. He claims that he surfaced and Van didn't see him. With the lake like conditions, and the number of boats looking for him, there is no way that this part could be true. He didn't have a safety sausage, which is required on Narcosis (they ask each diver and lend one to those who don't have one). What a pinhead! Oh, by the way, he ditched his dive buddy after 25 minutes. This tells you something about the guy. I am looking here because I understand that he is on Scubaboard bad mouthing Van! This was 100% the diver's fault. Van is meticulous about picking up the divers and counting as they come in. I dive seperate from the group and have never had an issue on this boat. The diver did everything wrong and honestly, should be charged for the search.
     
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  19. crbbndiver

    crbbndiver Angel Fish

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    Sandy's Sunday came from the north looking for the diver. If it had gone as the diver said, she would have been on the right line to see him. Sandy has a pretty good ability to see divers. With the conditions, she would have seen him. There were other boats that deliberately went to the North looking for him. There is no way this went as he said.

    I got in the water with this guy and his buddy. Spear fishermen are dropped seperately from the rest of the group on Narcosis (Love that!). We were to swim about 5 degrees East to encounter the 80' patch off shore of the Corridor. I got to the patch after a minute or two. They could have followed me but didn't. They never saw the 80' patch. This guy was sprung from the start.
     
  20. VooDooGasMan

    VooDooGasMan Loggerhead Turtle

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    Captain van has charged rec dive boats and has circled them with his big boat to swamp them, Rob the fella diver who got hit from a boat was the one where his divers were charged.

    That being said and van is being closely watched of his attitude on the water and his captain skills, this is another that divers no longer want him captaining a large vessel or any for that matter. One thing is for sure van must be very careful on all chaters for the rest of his captain charter life.

    crbb who is the member mouthing him on SB?
     

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