At approximately 9:30 Thursday morning, local fisherman Eddie Pars radioed in to say he had found a human body floating in the water close to the 12-Mile Bank, due West of George Town. Police vessel ‘The Protector’ attended the scene and the body was recovered.
A statement issued by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said ‘formal identification has yet to take place,’ but it is believed Mr. Pars located the body of the scuba diver that went missing off North West Point on Tuesday afternoon.
A major search commenced at around 3 pm Tuesday, when a sixty four-year-old man failed to return from a shore dive. He had gone out from the Cracked Conch area with five other divers and according to members of the group he was experiencing buoyancy problems and indicated he was returning to the shore. They told officers they saw the man surface and begin swimming back towards the coast, but when they returned they discovered he had not made it back.
Marine Unit Commander Brad Ebanks explained that many members of the community and government agencies had assisted with the search.
‘The ‘Cayman Aggressor’ came out to help us, Don Fosters and one of the locally owned vessels, ‘Hakuna Matata,’ we’ve had the Cayman Islands Port Authority assist us, Department of Environment came out as well and we utilised the helicopter for an aerial search.’
By Wednesday afternoon the Marine Unit resigned themselves to the fact that they were most likely in body recovery mode and teams of scuba divers had been fanning out and were meticulously searching the ‘Turtle Reef’ dive location.
Commander Ebanks said ‘we recovered an item on the seabed that possibly belongs to the missing diver, but at this stage we are not certain.’
Earlier reports indicated that the man had been a regular visitor to Cayman over the past 15 years and had been staying at Morritt’s Tortuga, where he owned a time share. According to Officer Ronnie Dougal who was involved in the search, ‘the man was a farmer by profession and was believed to be in reasonably good health when he went out for the dive.’ The marine conditions were also reported to be ‘pretty good’ off Cracked Conch that day and there had been very little current. One of the areas of concern that was raised by Police Constable Ian Porter of the Marine Unit was the fact that the man separated from his buddy during the course of the dive. The ‘Buddy System’ is a basic rule of scuba diving.
‘If a diver indicates he has a problem and has to go to the surface it is very important that his buddy goes to the surface with him and also follow that buddy in to shore or to the vessel… It is a very unsafe practice to go diving on your own.’
If the body recovered off the 12-Mile Banks is confirmed to be the diver who went missing on Tuesday, it will be the second diving fatality of the year. 47-year-old Tina Baxter from England drowned while diving off the Northwest Point on the 19th of January. The Police Service is in the process of preparing a file for the Coroner and the report, which should indicate the circumstances that led to the drowning, will be made public at a later date.
Thousands of people come to the Cayman Islands every year to scuba dive and the vast majority of them have a safe enjoyable experience.
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