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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Roatan Fatality

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

On January 10, the Spanish language newspaper La Prensa reported the untimely death of a Canadian woman while scuba diving at Roatan, with Anthony Key Resort. Maurine Lalonde was diving with a group when she descended out of sight of the other divers.

Terry Harrison (Des Moines, IA) evidently witnessed her latter moments and reported on ScubaBoard that he had met her and her husband, Pierre, the evening before the accident and joined them for dinner. She said she was about to make her 700th dive.

Diving at the airport side of the island because the water was too rough otherwise, Lalonde was with five other divers on an AKR boat. Harrison said the divemaster gave a good briefing and Lalonde had been paired with him for the dive. They entered the water but waited as instructed at 30 feet (10m). Harrison believed the divemaster stopped at 20 feet (6m) to help a diver equalize when he heard him banging his tank to get attention.

He saw the divemaster signaling the divers to surface, while he continued to bang his tank chasing downward in pursuit. Rather than ascend, the remaining four divers followed him down, but at 80 feet (25m) lost sight of him. Clay, Harrison's impromptu buddy, continued down to 173 feet (53m) before returning. As they did a safety stop, the divemaster 'ripped" past them, broke the surface and spoke with the boat captain, and headed back down.

It turns out that he had pursued Lalonde to 200 feet (60m) and had decided to return to 30 feet to recompress given his fast ascent and missed stops. Clay joined him since he, too, was in the same predicament.

The divemaster said later that he saw Lalonde descending feet-first with her arms folded and her head tilted to one side. She didn't respond to his gestures or tank banging, and he finally lost sight of her.

Both the divemaster and Clay suffered mild DCI symptoms. They breathed pure oxygen on the way back to land and hyperbaric treatment. Lalonde's body was recovered some days later. Her death remains a mystery.

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