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May 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Freak Wave Capsizes Shark Boat, Kills Three Divers

from the May, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Three divers, two of them Americans, drowned on April 14 after a South African shark-diving boat was hit by a freak wave and capsized near a shark-cage dive site near Gansbaai.

The 36-foot catamaran Shark Team, operated by the White Shark Project, did a standard morning shark-cage dive with 10 divers and nine crew. Waters were calm, with a six-foot swell and a southeasterly wind of 10 to 15 knots. A British survivor interviewed by the Cape Times said the boat was returning to shore around 10 a.m. when he saw a huge, “tsunami-like” wave 300 feet away. He watched another shark boat ride over it but as the wave approached them, the captain realized the boat was in trouble and asked passengers to grab hold of something. The wave hit Shark Team broadside, causing the boat to roll and capsize. South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute says the wave must have been at least 13 feet high to capsize the boat.

Because eight shark-diving companies operate in the same area, other boats were nearby when the wave hit and rescued the Shark Team passengers. Two divers were seriously injured, one with a broken foot and another with a shoulder injury, and a number were treated for shock.

But it is believed that the three drowned divers -- Cassey Scott Lajeunesse, 35, from Biddeford, Maine, Christopher Tallman, 34, from San Francisco, California, and Kenneth Roque, 37, from Moss, Norway -- were sucked under the boat after it capsized. Tallman was found still trapped underneath the vessel. He had a weak pulse when brought ashore but couldn’t be resuscitated and was pronounced dead in the ambulance. Lajeunesse’s and Roque’s bodies were found in the water, drowned. None of the bodies had any injuries or physical marks from sharks.

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