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August 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Did This Shark Diver Disappear?

did a heart attack, tiger shark or something else get him?

from the August, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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At 8 p.m. on July 13, the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call about John E. Petty, a 63-year-old diver missing from the Shear Water, a liveaboard used by Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures for its controversial cage-free shark dives in the Bahamas. On the Saturday prior, Petty, a chiropractor from Longview, TX, boarded the boat along with eight other divers and four crew in Palm Beach, FL, for an eight-night expedition to Tiger Beach, 20 miles off Grand Bahama's West End, with the goal of diving with its resident population of tiger sharks. The dive took place in the late afternoon near Memory Rock, and Petty was last seen by another diver in the group during the dive.

Michael Stroscheim, manager of Scuba Adventures, told the Longview News-Journal that the trip was Petty's first with his company, and that Shear Water crew followed emergency procedures when he didn't return to the boat. "John was separated from the boat about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. We are not really sure why. We do know that there was a current. When the crew realized he was not at the boat, they recalled the divers and initiated the search. Our protocol is 10 minutes. After that, we contacted the Coast Guard and at that point, the Coast Guard takes over."

Operating out of Miami, the Coast Guard deployed an immediate air-and-sea search operation consisting of a cutter, a fixed-wing aircraft, and a helicopter. On Tuesday, the search-and-rescue crews recovered a dive mask. On Wednesday morning, they recovered a camera and some shredded dive gear. All were on the seafloor a nautical mile from where the Shear Water called in. On Thursday, after covering 4,600 miles in 64 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search. Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios of the Coast Guard's Miami station, says that because of the large tiger shark population, a fatal shark encounter could be a possibility....

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