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May 2002 Vol. 28, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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$35 Million Suit Filed in Diving Death

from the May, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The parents and former fiancee of a diver who died while exploring the wreck of the Andrea Doria have filed a $35 million federal lawsuit, accusing his instructors, the certification agency Technical Diving International and the operators of the dive boat Seeker of failing to ensure that Christopher Murley was prepared to make the dives and of providing him inadequate supervision. The Massachusetts state medical examiner’s office listed Murley’s cause of death as drowning, with obesity and Murley’s enlarged heart among “other significant factors.” Murley, who stood 6-7 and weighed 350 pounds, also had diabetes.

Murley, 44, of Cincinnati, was one of five divers to die over the summers of 1998 and 1999 at the Andrea Dori a wreck, while diving from the Seeker. He drowned in July 1999, while preparing to descend to the ship, which lies 180 feet below the surface, 100 miles from Montauk.

The lawsuit pits two attorneys who are themselves highly qualified divers. The attorney for Murley’s parents, Richard Lefkowitz, has dived on the Andrea Doria. One of the defendants’ attorneys, William Turbeville II, has been an instructor and is a technical diver.

Turbeville argues that Murley signed release forms that acknowledge the danger involved in deep-sea diving and give up his right to sue. Lefkowitz argues in court papers that Murley’s instructors had cleared him for the techincal diving certification recommended for diving the Doria, although he reportedly had not completed enough dives to earn it. “Our position is, Murley had no business being out there, no business at all,” Lefkowitz said.

Daniel Crowell and Jennifer Samulski operate the Seeker as part of their company, Deep Explorers Inc. Crowell has argued that Murley’s demise should not be considered a diving death because Murley was not underwater at the time, merely proceeding to the rope that descended to the wreck when he experienced an unknown physical problem.

A Coast Guard investigation released a year ago concluded that Murley’s instructors should not have allowed him to dive because of poor health. Joe Jackson, Murley’s instructor and a defendant in the current lawsuit, said in response that Murley had supplied him with a letter from a cardiologist clearing him for the activity.

--- Joe Haberstroh. Newsday

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