Last July, Christopher Le Cun, a scuba diver and
resident of South Florida, was boating and scuba diving
with friends and family near the St. Lucie nuclear power
plant. Le Cun and his friend, Robert Blake, found three
massive barnacle-covered structures underneath the surface
that were visible from above the water. There was a
buoy in the water, seemingly marking the shallow water
for passing boats. Since there were no obvious warnings
posted, the diving friends swam down to investigate the
"I swam right up to this big structure and it looks like
a building underwater. I felt a little bit of current. All of
a sudden it got a little quicker, and I said this ain't right,
this ain't right," said Le Cun.
The St. Lucie nuclear power plant gets cooling water
from a canal system that is connected to the Atlantic
Ocean by three underwater intake pipes. There is no
grating over the mouth of the intake pipe, and the force
of 500,000 gallons of water per second rushing into the
pipes pulled Le Cun into the intake. Blake thought he
had watched his friend die in front of him. He raced to
the surface where he yelled at Le Cun's wife in the boat,
and she called 911 and began trying to explain what had
happened to her husband.
Deep underwater, Le Cun was tumbling through the
intake pipe -- which is 16 feet across and nearly a quarter
mile long -- a rate of nearly seven feet per second.
As the water travels through the pipe, it gets more turbulent.
Le Cun told Jared Werksma of WPTV in West Palm
Beach, "I kind of felt like I got sucked over a waterfall
and just instantly complete darkness. I was getting
tumbled around and around. I'm trying to hold onto
my mask and my regulator. I finally get ahold of my light
and I'm trying to look around. As far as you can see, it's just black . . . . I knew something was drawing all this
water. All I could think about was these horror movies,
you know, this big turbine coming and I'm coming for
it. You know, it's going to chop me up and kill me . . . . I
contemplated, you know, do I just pull the regulator out
of my mouth and just die? I started thinking about my
family, you know, how are they going to survive without
me?" Then he saw the light. "It looks like a match, out in
the distance, just the littlest bit of what you've ever seen.
When it gets a little bigger, then a little bigger. Then
all of a sudden just, poof, daylight. Fish everywhere,
crystal-clear water, the sun is shining and I'm like, 'is this
After nearly a five-minute ride, Le Cun was finally in
the intake channel at the St. Lucie nuclear power plant
that is used to condense the steam for the turbine. He
flagged down a worker and then borrowed a phone to
call his wife.
Le Cun has filed a lawsuit against Florida Power and
Light, the utility that operates the nuclear power plant.
This is not the first time that a diver has been sucked
into the intake at St. Lucie. In 1989, William Lamm was
scuba diving and spearfishing near the water intake,
when he, too, was sucked in. "It was darker than any dark
I've ever seen, and I tried to hold my arms in front of
me for balance, but I tumbled and bounced all over the
sides of the pipe."
It took nearly four minutes before Lamm was deposited
in a canal at St. Lucie, where he was found by a security
guard who saw him surface.
Lamm reported that the force of the water was so
strong that it pulled off his mask and diving gloves and
even ripped out his mouthpiece several times, threatening
to drown him in the fast-moving flow of water.
From reports in Enformable Nuclear News and KPTV