A Florida Keys spearfisher underwent a dramatic experience when his freedive to around 10m was transformed by a sudden downcurrent into a rapid descent into deeper waters – but he survived to tell the tale, after spending some three hours missing at sea.
Dylan Gartenmayer, 22, was boat-diving on a reef several miles off Key West on the afternoon of 19 January, with two friends as surface cover. Conditions had been deteriorating but he had insisted on one more dive when the incident occurred.
He later reported having to maintain his breath-hold unexpectedly for about two minutes before regaining the surface, by which time he was a long way from the boat.
Gartenmayer, who was wearing a wetsuit and carrying a snorkel, then swam about a mile to reach a channel marker buoy, partly supported on some floating bamboo he had found. He managed to cut and fasten together three mooring buoys to form a makeshift raft.
His friends, assuming that he had blacked out under water, had raised the alarm when he failed to reappear. As the US Coastguard launched a search operation, the freediver’s family joined in on his grandfather’s boat Contender – and it was his friend Joel Cruz on that vessel who spotted the diver’s raft.
“God was definitely on our side, because as soon as we stopped running out and started looking, we spotted him right away at almost the exact co-ordinates we were given,” said one of the family search party, cousin Priscilla Gartenmayer, who described the trip out as “the scariest boat-ride of our life”. The rescue was captured on a phone video that has been widely viewed.
The Coastguard brought Gartenmayer ashore and within an hour his body temperature had normalised and he was able to go home.
“Too often missing-diver cases don’t have positive outcomes, and the circumstances of this case didn’t forecast for one,” US Coastguard search and rescue mission co-ordinator Lt-Cdr Elizabeth Tatum told NBC6.
“Sunset, weather conditions and Dylan’s [black] outfit were playing against us in this case, but his foresight to lash mooring-balls together to make him a bigger target in the water was smart.”
Scuba instructor dies in Thailand
In Thailand a British scuba-diving instructor has been found dead in his rented flat on the island of Koh Tao. The body of Neil Giblin, 48, from Birmingham, was discovered after students reported that he had failed to arrive to lead their course.
According to police Giblin had died of natural causes, although a friend told the Sun that no post mortem examination had been carried out and “something doesn’t add up”. The death was not widely reported in Thailand, where the authorities have grown weary of frequent tabloid press references to the expatriate and backpacker diving location as “Death Island”.
This stems from a series of unexplained or suspicious deaths of foreigners since 2014, including six people from Britain, one of them a scuba diver.