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October 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Deaths the Result of Too Many Students for One Instructor

from the October, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Bret Gilliam has written eloquently in these pages that in any training class with only one instructor, the students are at risk if left alone while the instructors leaves to help another student or take that student to the surface. He argues that two instructors should always be present. And here are two cases supporting his view.

A young woman, Patricia Flores-Perez (22), went missing and was later found dead during a scuba class at West Seattle's Seacrest Park on August 28. She was one of three divers under instruction when the water got murky and the instructor decided they should surface. Only when the other students and the instructor reached the surface was Perez missed.

The instructor went to shore to call 911 and get fresh tanks in order to belatedly search for her. Another diver found her in 69 feet of water. Fire crews pulled her out and performed CPR. She was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

Meanwhile, the family of a man who died while on his very first scuba dive near Panama City in the Gulf of Mexico has filed a lawsuit against PADI and the business that instructed him. Fifty-two-year-old Kevin Michael Kimbley died on July 1st, when he became separated from a three-trainee dive, only to be found floating lifelessly half an hour later.

The lawsuit filed by Anna Kimbley, wife of Kevin Kimbley, names Coast Adventures LLC, Diving PCB, and PADI as defendants. The 25-year-old dive instructor, Gentry Hewitt, is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Kimbley, his son and his nephew had never used scuba gear before, and Diving PCB advertising was directed at nondivers specifically, with a slogan, "Try Scuba Diving." The suit claims that the defendants were responsible for both equipment and procedures to ensure the safety of their customers, including assigning dive buddies for the group.

The lawsuit alleges that the instructor, Hewitt, swam in front of the group of novice divers, and by failing to provide a proper lookout, Kimbley disappeared without the instructor knowing he was gone. His unresponsive body was found by other divers 30 minutes later. He was without fins, perhaps because they were inappropriately sized. It is reported that the instructor, Hewitt, checked each of the divers every minute during the dive, but at the last inspection of the deceased, he was having fin trouble, which the instructor helped him resolve. One minute later he was missing. Both Kimbley's son and nephew corroborated this. When found, he was unresponsive.

Mike Luttrell, the manager of Coast Adventures, said, "It's awful. It's hard for me. I created something a man died from."

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