Phillips was a highly experienced diver and well-known in the international diving community. He had been a scuba diver for seven years when he started working as a dive master in Thailand in 1997, and qualified as an instructor at Utila Dive Centre the following year.
He left to spend a short time working in Costa Rica and Egypt, where he took up technical diving, but then returned to settle in Utila.
By 2002 he was a PADI Course Director, later reaching Platinum level. Among his many diving qualifications he was a trimix, rebreather and DAN instructor-trainer.
“For 20 years, Andy Phillips developed and fostered both the diving community and industry on Utila and by extension, Central America,” said the instructor development centre in a statement. “Utila as we know it – unique and exuberant – exists as it does because of him.”
“The tens of thousands of students, countless professional designations and accolades and the carcasses of nearly as many lionfish – Andy was an unsurpassed ambassador and icon for an industry he helped pioneer.”
The centre stated that Phillips had made “an immeasurable impact to the community, the conservation and preservation of marine environment and notably the development of professional scuba divers throughout the world”.
It described him as a “thoughtful dive-buddy, meaningful mentor and best friend to so many that will now miss him dearly”.