Two American marine biologists who had been diving a shipwreck off north-eastern Mexico have been killed by a dive-boat that failed to observe their signalled presence at the surface.
The fatal incident occurred off Isla Mujeres in the Caribbean on Friday, 4 March. The victims, men aged 60 and 65, were reported to have been experienced scuba divers, diving as part of a group of four with a divemaster.
They had been exploring the 25m-deep C-55, a WW2-era former US minesweeper sunk as an artificial reef six miles south-west of the island in 2000. Witnesses said that the divers had sent up an SMB before making their ascent.
The men were returning to a dive-boat operated by Squalo Adventures from Isla Mujeres. It had been the only vessel at the site, but according to the surviving divers a larger dive-boat called Mr Tom, operated by Scuba Cancun from the mainland, then arrived.
They said that its captain ignored the SMB as well as shouted warnings from the divemaster, moving to position the boat above the wreck-site to drop off its own divers.
In the process its large propellers were said to have hit both divers on their heads. The men were recovered from the water and taken for emergency medical attention but both were said to have been dead before they could be treated.
‘You have to wait in line’
Mr Tom was later impounded by the police on Isla Mujeres and the vessel’s unnamed captain taken into custody. The FGE, the Quintana Roo state attorney-general’s office, is investigating the fatal incident.
The Americans were part of a larger group of regular visitors to Isla Mujeres, said Andres Fernandez, who has run Squalo Adventures for the past 16 years.
After the surviving divers had described to him what had happened, he told press of Mr Tom: “They did not follow the rules – they just wanted to drop their divers off… When you are diving, you have to wait in line. Everyone knows.”
Scuba Cancun is the oldest dive operation in Cancun, a family-run PADI 5* centre that has been based there for 42 years. Its founder Captain Luis Hurtado claims to have been the first scuba instructor in the city. The centre has a number of day-boats, ranging from 11-16m in length.
Steve has been a scuba diver for 30 years and became editor of Diver magazine in 1996, following 10 years with BBC World Service and the 10 before that in motoring journalism.