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February 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 38, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Still Unclear How Key Largo’s Get Wet Got Wet

from the February, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last month, we reported on the December sinking of Get Wet, a boat owned by Key Largo Scuba Shack, that killed one diver and put another in the hospital in critical condition. An in-depth investigation by the Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission into the fatal sinking will continue for several months, but authorities do know that the boat's hatches were "exposed," and combined with weather conditions, allowed the boat take on a lot of water very fast. The term "exposed hatches" could mean hatches were closed but not sealed to be watertight.

The Coast Guard has removed the bilge pump from the Get Wet to see if it was working. "We have not done that testing yet," Lieutenant Jeff Fry, senior investigating officer for the Coast Guard, told the Key West Keynoter. "Even if the pump was working, it probably would not have removed that much water."

The winds on December 18 increased the seas at Molasses Reef, where Get Wet was doing an afternoon dive, allowing water to pour over the transom and "down-flood" into the hull through the exposed hatches at the stern. When the boat started to move, water moved toward the stern and apparently caused the Get Wet to sink quickly, stern-first. The two divers below, Aimee Rhoads, 36, and Amit Rampurkarl, 27, were trapped by the deck cover. A large engine-hatch cover fitted with bench seats moved toward the bow as the water swamped the stern, further preventing escape. Boat captain John Nathaniel was able to retrieve the unconscious divers from the forward section, but Rhoads died and Rampurkarl remained hospitalized in Miami as of mid-January, and Fry has not been able to take a statement from him. No criminal or civil charges have been filed. "We'll make a determination of what happened and consider if there are things that could have been done to prevent it," Fry said.

After reading about the Get Wet sinking, Undercurrent subscriber Joel Sill (Los Angeles, CA) wrote in to offer his solution in case he ever gets trapped below the waterline during a worst-case scenario. "Sleeping in a cabin has been a recurring concern for me for years. When the Spare Air was released, I purchase one and keep it in my cabin. I attach a small light to a Velcro strap, and at least have a few extra breaths with some light if something catastrophic happens to the boat. An idea worth considering for other readers."

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