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October 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 22, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dive Boat Fiascos

from the October, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After movies like Open Water and The Perfect Storm, youd think all dive boats would tighten up their safety measures, but there are still a few that make stupid mistakes with divers paying the price.

In August, two British divers were abandoned off Antigua for five hours after dive crew from Sandals Grande Antigua Resort failed to notice they were missing. The two drifted for miles from Cades Reef after the group left the site for lunch without them. The 11 other divers and three crew continued to dive elsewhere in the afternoon without noticing they were gone. Their disappearance was discovered only when their wives asked for them when the boat arrived back at the dock, and they were rescued just at the verge of drowning. Sandals fired four staff but later reportedly reinstated two of them and refused to comment.

The M/V Kingfisher, a Thai liveaboard based in Phuket, was carrying 55 divers and four crew in early September when it sank a mile from Phi Phi Island, killing one diver and injuring two. Near the end of the dive trip, Captain Suriyan Soison, 34, saw a storm approaching and called the divers back to the boat but it was too late. On the way back to Ton Sai Bay, the Kingfisher was hit by big waves, and started taking on water while making a turn near an island. The boat started sinking quickly, forcing everyone into the water. Nearby boats rescued all passengers except for Israeli diver Nissim Lugasi, 26, who got trapped under the boat and drowned. Adam Berbichevsky, 23, also from Israel, had his legs nearly severed by the boats propeller. Soison has been charged with reckless manslaughter and faces 10 years in prison. Summer is Thailands low season because conditions in the Andaman Sea are often hazardous, but despite warnings to shut down operations during off-season, many Phuket-based dive boats still offer trips.

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