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October 2006 Vol. 32, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diver Rescued after 56 Hours at Sea. Or So He Claimed?

from the October, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It started as the feel-good dive story of the year, and the British media jumped all over it. A diver from the island of Guernsey, missing off the Channel Islands between England and France, was miraculously rescued after surviving 56 hours in the frigid waters.

Matthew Harvey, 35, went diving alone on September 9, and when he failed to return home, his wife reported him missing. Police, rescue divers, lifeboat crews, coast guard helicopters and more than 20 private vessels searched for Harvey, in an operation estimated to cost at least $20,000. Instead, they should have done a pub crawl. Turns out he staged the entire event to get a weekend to himself.

Harvey, a historian at the local museum on the island of Guernsey, initially claimed he’d been hit by a boat during his solo dive. He said he was swept out to sea and had to swim for six hours in choppy waters after ditching his scuba gear. He claimed he’d made it to some rocks, where he passed out and woke Monday evening. He was trying to swim back to shore when he was hauled out of the water by a passing yacht, 24 hours after authorities called off the official search.

Harvey might have gotten away with his elaborate ruse, except for the publicity it generated. After seeing his photo in the local news, a woman reported she had seen him strolling around the town of Bournemouth precisely when he was supposedly drifting around Guernsey. Closed-circuit videotapes showed him on the pier in the south-coast town. Eventually, a nearby storage facility manager said that Harvey had deposited his diving equipment with them overnight.

Police, who had originally accepted Harvey’s version as gospel, later declared his claims unfounded, after they discovered he’d boarded a ferry to the mainland and returned to his Guernsey home on Monday, re-entering the water an hour or so before he was spotted.

Investigators believe no crime has been committed. Harvey’s wife, Katie, refused to comment to the media, but we’ll bet she had plenty to say to her wayward hubby.

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