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August 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Skipper’s Remorse at Loss of Diver.

from the August, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Laurel Silver-Valker jumped off her dive boat on December 29 to hunt for lobsters below Ship Rock off Catalina Island. She was never seen again. Silver-Valker, 45, was a regular on Sundiver trips, even volunteering as a crewmember on occasion. The dive boat left Ship Rock and went to a different site before the skipper realized she was not back on board, returning later to do a search.

A US Coastguard investigation into the disappearance and presumed death of diver Laurel Silver-Valker has resulted in the voluntary surrender of the credentials of the skipper of the Sundiver Express, the 43-foot dive boat that left the dive site with her unaccounted for.

Facing possible prosecution for six alleged offenses, Kyaa Heller agreed to surrender her merchant mariner credentials and is no longer authorized to serve as the master of a commercial vessel.

It has been alleged to Undercurrent by Jorge Lopez, attorney representing the sons of the deceased, that "she instructed her divemaster to add Ms. Silver-Valker's name to the dive roster and boat manifest after realizing that she was left behind and missing and before the Coast Guard arrived. The inference is that Ms. Heller was trying to cover up her error."

There is no excuse for departing a dive site without confirming all passengers are on board and accounted for," said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Menefee, senior investigating officer.

"Passenger vessel operators must take the role and responsibility of Master seriously, as the safety of their passengers is in their hands. The responsibility of a Master cannot be delegated."

Sundiver and Sundiver II continue to be operated under the captaincy of Ray Arntz, co-finder of California's only German U-Boat wreck, the WWI UB88.

Readers of Undercurrent may remember Sundiver Charters. We wrote about diver Daniel Carlock, who won a $1.68 million judgement against them. He too was left behind on a dive and floated for five hours off the coast of Newport Beach in 2004 until a boat full of Boy Scouts happened to spot him.

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