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August 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the August, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Undercurrent Reader Loses Dive Knife; Another Reader Returns It 30 Years Later. Mona Cousens (Goleta, CA) lost her engraved dive knife in Baja California 30 years ago. In the early 90s, Jim Levi (Oro Valley, AZ) was diving off Seal Island, near La Paz, when he found the knife on the sea bottom. "I could see Mona's name engraved, but the knife had started to corrode," Levi told us. "I took it home as a souvenir and it sat in my shop since, until I found it again while cleaning. I realized that when I'm dead and gone, nobody would care about the knife, so I thought it was time to look for its owner." He Googled Cousens and found the posts she made to Undercurrent, then contacted us to see if we could contact Cousens. She and Levi exchanged e-mails, and Cousens got her long-thoughtlost knife back at the end of July.

Diver Accidentally Kills Spearfishing Buddy. Florida dive buddies Dale Bartush and Jarrod Ditmars were celebrating the Fourth of July by spearfishing in Sarasota Bay, when Bartush accidentally shot Ditmars in the head. Bartush immediately surfaced for help, and when boaters pulled Ditmars, 21, out of the water, they thought he was dead until he started gasping for air. Ditmars remained alive for five days until his parents, Rob and Maribeth, took him off life support. Except for a fishing license and where and what to fish, Florida says there are no other requirements for spearfishing. The Ditmars say their son's accident is proof change is needed. "Because there was no safety on the gun, this was preventable," Maribeth told Florida TV station WTSP. Police ruled the shooting an accident, and the Ditmars say they forgive Bartush. "He made a big mistake diving where he shouldn't have been," Rob told WTSP. "The water was murky."

Florida Lawyer Caught with 28 Lobsters. With all the lawyer jokes out there, Fort Myers attorney Steven Koeppel didn't do his profession any favors when he was arrested July 29 near Islamorada with 28 illegal lobsters hidden on his boat. In a random vessel check, officers stopped Koeppel's 25-foot boat during the first day of the two-day lobster sport season last month. Koeppel, 55, there with his two sons, showed officers 18 legal lobsters (the bag limit is six lobsters per person in those waters), but the officers found 28 additional lobsters hidden in a compartment under the deck. "If it had been, 'Oh, we didn't know the regulations,' it might have just been a citation," Officer Bobby Dube told the News- Press. "But the fact that the lobsters were hidden shows outright intent to circumvent the law; any first-year law student could tell you that . . . There's no way he didn't know what he was doing. And he's teaching his two kids to break the law."

"Dead" Diver in Honduras Actually Died in Australia. In 1974, fisherman and marijuana smuggler Raymond Stansel Jr. was indicted in Florida after being caught with nine tons of weed on the Steinhatchee River. Stansel was granted a $500,000 bond, paid it with a cashier's check, then went diving in Honduras, where he was reported missing on New Year's Eve. His girlfriend and other witnesses said he fell off a boat, but investigators didn't believe them and kept on looking. They didn't find Stansel until 40 years later, when a Tampa Bay Times reporter found that Stansel -- now a tour boat operator named Dennis Lafferty living in Queensland, Australia -- had died in a car accident at age 78. He had married the girlfriend, who moved there with him and kept her name, but investigators never tracked her. Apparently, "Lafferty" was a good citizen, and there was an outpouring of grief in his adopted hometown after he died. Stansel left a family behind in Florida -- his two sons are in federal prison for importing cocaine, and ironically, one was on the run for 20 years, living in Alaska while married to a police officer. Read the Tampa Bay Times' great story at www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/traffic-accident-in-australia-ends-40-year-old-mystery-in-florida/2234369

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