Missing scuba diver feared dead

Tech divers join search for American visitor

Advanced technical divers joined the search for missing diver David Byles on Tuesday as police acknowledged the grim reality that he was extremely unlikely to be found alive.

Experienced volunteer divers, using specialized equipment and mixed gases to reach depths beyond the recreational limit of 130 feet, combed the reef close to where Mr. Byles was last seen Sunday after surfacing following a dive.

The 57-year-old tourist’s tank and dive vest, as well as an item of clothing, were found on the site Monday. But by noon Tuesday an extensive search had revealed no sign of him.

Mr. Byles, a drummer in various jazz bands in the North Carolina area, was on an organized scuba dive with Sunset Divers when he disappeared in unexplained circumstances Sunday morning. Police say he surfaced with his wife and was swimming toward the boat, roughly 100 yards away, when he disappeared from view.

Staff from Sunset Divers immediately searched the area and police were called to assist.

As the search extended into a third day Tuesday, Inspector Ian Yearwood acknowledged that the operation had moved from “search and rescue” to “search and recovery.”

“We are now in our third day of searching,” he said. “It’s clear to everyone involved that it’s now extremely unlikely that Mr. Byles will be found alive. We have shared our concerns with his wife and we continue to keep her fully updated as to the status of the search and of any developments.”

In Mr. Byles hometown of Pinehurst, North Carolina, friends spoke of their shock, describing him as a well-loved and respected member of the community.

Pastor Al Hill of the Trinity Christian Fellowship Church where Mr. Byles is chairman of the church council, told his local newspaper, The Pilot, that everyone at the church was praying for him. He said a fellow pastor had flown to the Cayman Islands to offer support and comfort to Mr. Byles’s wife.

He said Mr. Byles loved diving and had visited Grand Cayman previously,

Friends of Mr. Byles also told a television station in North Carolina that he worked in sales but was known throughout the community as a drummer in a number of local bands.

Twenty-eight people were involved in the search Tuesday, including 15 police personnel and 13 divers from various dive shops around the island.

Red Sail Watersports donated one of its boats and some of its staff to the search.

What exactly happened to Mr. Byles remains a mystery. Keith Sahm, general manager of Sunset Divers, said he had shown no signs of distress after reaching the surface along with his wife. He said she thought he had boarded the boat ahead of her and only raised the alarm when she realized this was not the case.

The search was continuing when the Cayman Compass went to press Tuesday afternoon.

Volunteer divers aboard Red Sail

Volunteer divers aboard Red Sail’s boat joined the search for David Byles on Tuesday. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER