Another diver has gone missing and is presumed dead in Little Cayman.
If both divers have died, as police suspect, they would be the fourth and fifth diving-related fatalities in the Cayman Islands this year.
The latest incident happened Sunday morning. A 59-year-old American man vacationing on the island was on a scheduled trip with Reef Divers and did not return to the dive boat.
Police said the missing man’s diving buddy noted he was having some pain in his ear. Police said the man indicated to his companion that he was not going to continue the dive, and instead planned to resurface and swim to the boat.
When the rest of the dive group returned to the boat the man was not there.
A search began. Staff from Reef Divers contacted the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service at 10.15am about the missing man. All available watercraft, a helicopter and a plane helped in the search.
Police said they had no indication the man’s disappearance was suspicious, or that there was any negligence on the part of the divers with him.
Reef Divers and the Little Cayman Beach Resort issued the following statement about the incident: ‘Two dive staff from Reef Divers were present aboard the vessel. One dive master was in the water leading the dive and the other remained on board. As is standard and strict policy of Reef Divers, the diver was paired with a buddy.’
Police said the diver paired with the missing man apparently continued on with the dive when his buddy decided to surface.
‘A buddy team starts the dive together and finishes the dive together,’ said Stephen Broadbelt, Chairman of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Watersports Committee.
‘The buddy procedure got a little relaxed there,’ Mr. Broadbelt said. ‘The two divers…weren’t necessarily following standard buddy procedures.’
Little Cayman Beach Resort Hotel Manager Nicholas Wilson said once divers are underwater they are generally responsible for their own safety.
‘But I’m not going to start making guesses as to what happened,’ Mr. Wilson said.
About two months earlier, a 43-year-old resident of Little Cayman went missing while on a dive with the same company.
Heidi Theresa Carson has never been found, and a police spokesperson said there was nothing suspicious about her disappearance either.
‘We suspect it’s a suicide,’ said Deborah Denis with the RCIPS. However, Ms Denis said a coroner hasn’t made an official ruling on Ms Carson’s case.
According to police reports, Ms Carson apparently separated from five other divers and a dive master while on the 11 February dive.
Both the 59-year-old American vacationer and Ms Carson were experienced divers, according to police.
‘Obviously, an incident like this…heightens your awareness that scuba diving is an extreme sport and even the most experienced divers shouldn’t take safety for granted,’ Mr. Wilson said.
Three people have died while on dives in Grand Cayman since January.
The most recent incident involved a 57-year-old man from Georgetown, Texas who was found floating unconscious in the sea by crews from Sunset Divers on 11 March.
A week before that, a 71-year-old man died while participating in a 100-foot-dive in the waters off East End.
In January, a 54-year-old American died while on a shore dive near Sunset House.
A cause of death has not been officially determined by coroner’s juries in any of the cases.
Assuming the two divers in Little Cayman are dead as well, a total of five divers have died in the Cayman Islands so far this year.
In 2006, police statistics show there were three diving-related deaths in Cayman. Seven other deaths last year were attributed to incidents involving swimmers or snorkelers.
So far this year, two deaths in the islands have involved swimmers or snorkelers. Both of them happened in January.