Power Boat Strikes 2 Divers Off Catalina, Killing 1
One man died and his diving partner was seriously injured Sunday morning
when a power boat accidentally struck them after they came up for air in
waters off Santa Catalina Island, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department spokesman said. The men, described only as in their 30s, were
diving without air tanks in an area called Eagles Reef.
Posted by Yutaka on Oct-04-99 at 09:21 AM (PDT)
Opening weekend of lobster season, it's an absolute circus out
there around the isthmus. All the
sport boats (diving) are out there along with every yahoo with a
boat trying to get in on the action.
Safety goes out the door when it comes to lobster hunting on
opening weekend. The last time (and I
mean the LAST time) I was at the isthmus for the opener, it was a
battle zone. You could hear boats
criss-crossing above you as you were diving. Scary.
Two years ago I almost got ran over by a sailboat which decided to
motor through in between the
dive boat (Atlantis) and the LB breakwall which we were diving.
Unbelievable. I was on the surface
swimming back to the boat, when it approached. When I realized
this moron was going to pass inside
the Atlantis and straight through me, I turned on my dive light
and signaled to him. He turned away
from me, and right towards two other divers on the surface. I
started yelling and signalling, and they
finally realized what they had done. They zig-zagged through the
area, luckily avoiding all the divers
on the surface and continued on.
I'm taking three of my friends out this weekend for a 3 day
lobster hunt, and we have a set drill. We
put a team of two in the water while the other two stay on board.
One of the two on board
constantly scans the water for divers in trouble and any boat
traffic. The other suits up and preps
for the dive. When he is ready, he takes over the watch while the
other one preps. When the first
team returns, the second team enters the water, and the roles are
swapped. Pretty simple. The key
is that we always have a person above the water looking for signs
of trouble. While there are no
absolutes, one can do a lot to minimize the chances of tragedy.
Accident happened about 9AM. Apparently the two victims were free-divers from a
private boat that was anchored near the shoreline.
The Mr. C (San Pedro charter dive boat) had anchored up on Eagle Reef, which is
a few hundred yards out from Catalina and is well-marked by buoys. Dive flag
Apparently the two victims were brought out by dingy from the private boat by
another person, who had the divers enter the water near the Mr. C (not sure how
close) and then the dingy went back to the private boat, presumably to pick the
two free-divers up later. Don't know if they were spear-fishing or just
sight-seeing, and don't think it matters much either way.
The captain of the Mr. C said that he saw another boat, a 30' private boat,
heading towards Eagle Reef, and the general area in which he was anchored, at
what appeared to be full speed. He (the captain) ran into the wheelhouse and
began blowing his horn while others on deck yelled at the approaching boat, but
to no avail.
The boat, still moving at a very fast speed, ran directly over the two
free-divers. (Don't know how close or far from the Mr. C they were at the
time.) Right after the impact, the boat stopped, circled back to the Mr. C, and
the boat driver supposedly said, "I think I may have hit one of your divers."
At this point, divers from the Mr. C were already in the water towing back the
victims and a call was put into Isthmus Baywatch, which is about a mile away.
The surviving diver apparently had cuts and lacerations over his legs and
torso. We heard a report of a broken leg. The other diver unfortunately was hit
in the head, apparently by the prop. I will not describe anything here other
than to say it was pretty obvious he wasn't going to make it.
Baywatch took the victims (I'm assuming) to the Catalina Chamber for medical
treatment. We also understand the boat was escorted into the Isthmus area and
the driver was "detained" and the boat impounded.
Don't know if any charges have or will be filed but many of us are SPECULATING
that manslaughter is a possibility, given the proximity of the Mr. C, the
presence of a dive flag, the close approach and excessive speed of the other
boat (California law requires boats to stay 100 yards from another vessel
flying a dive flag), and the buoys on the reef.
NAUI Instructor #5936
Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, Ca.
I didn't write that post as I had forwarded it(to "rec.scuba" and
"rec.scuba.locations")from the main message board at
http://www.sport-fish-info.com before you had emailed me the following
(additional) information after you had read my initial post at
"rec.scuba" and "rec.scuba.locations"(thanks for clarifying the
I just did a search in the online copy
of the California Code of Regulations. Only Title 8, Industrial
Relations, mentions a dive flag, and this is with respect to
commercial divers. It requires that an Alpha flag (not the red with
white stripe) be flown, and places no requirements on other boaters.
Title 7, Harbors and Navigation, and Title 23, Waters, do not mention
the dive flag.
The net is that it would appear that a dive flag has now legal
meaning in California. Not right (I'm a diver) but that's the
way it is.
The best hope is that AB1287, which will require a "boater license"
is on the Governor's desk.
Ken Kurtis wrote:
> California law requires boats to stay 100 yards from another vessel
> flying a dive flag.
Silicon Valley: Best day job in the world.
This had absolutely nothing to do with the opening of lobster season. The
"circus" as you describe it, happens at 12:01AM, not at 9AM. The boat that hit
them was, based on what I've been told, NOT involved with lobster-hunting in
I think your statement, juxtaposed with this unfortunate incident, is rather
Imagine that, Jim Morris forwarding a post.
But using the word "law" was wrong on my part as it doesn't seem to have that
kind of clout or consequence for violation.
Had a jerk blew through the site on plane in about a 15 foot Boston
Whaler while we had both a float in the water and both types of dive
flag rigged on the boat.
Well, it took me quite a while to find it and I don't know what legal weight it
would carry, but I got some guidelines from the U.S. Power Squadrons. (Couldn't
get it to cut-and-paste.)
The upshot is that they clearly discuss both the alpha (blue/white) and diver
down flag (red w/white stripe). They advise boaters to "stay well clear" of a
vessel displaying the alpha flag. It also mentions that when seeing a diver
down flag, it only indicates the approximate position of the diver and advises
that divers can sometimes stray far from the flag. However, there is no mention
of how far "well clear" would prudently be.
You can read it all for yourself at their website (www.usps.org). Then scroll
down to "International Maritime Signal Flags . . . and Their Meanings."
I couldn't find anything in the USCG or Auxilliary on-line stuff.
I assume (but don't know for a fact) that the Mr. C, the charter dive boat in
the vicinity of where the two free-divers were hit, was flying both the alpha
and the diver down flags.
> Power Boat Strikes 2 Divers Off Catalina, Killing 1
Don't ya think this is just a tad out of line with the subject title? Since
some of the facts about the accident have been published?
This has nothing to do with "diving" on air as it has been recently debated.
Troll, troll, troll your boats gently....
I Call you My Friend, because You are My Friend.
Nekton Pilot, May 20 - 27, 2000. Be there or be square.
> The net is that it would appear that a dive flag has now legal
> meaning in California. Not right (I'm a diver) but that's the
> way it is.
Florida law covers diver's responsibility, but boater responsibilities are
only recommendations. Crazy world we live in.
> The best hope is that AB1287, which will require a "boater license"
> is on the Governor's desk.
You've made a heck of a jump here from no law regarding flags to everyone
needs to be licensed. Pardon me if I chose to disagree. Regulation is
rarely the answer to anything (a hell of a statement from a government
regulator). Personal responsibility and strictly enforced penalties are, in
my opinion, better options.