The owner of a Welsh online company that sold golfballs retrieved from lakes has been jailed for 32 months for manslaughter, following the diving death of an employee.
To meet Diving at Work regulations in retrieving the balls, Dale Pike's company Boss Golf Balls should have employed a commercial dive-team, at a cost of around £1250 a day, Cardiff Crown Court was told.
Instead Pike told Gareth Pugh, a 29-year-old acquaintance described as having learning difficulties, that he would pay him £20-40 a day to carry out the work.
Pike, 26, was the only other person at the site when Pugh drowned in a lake at Peterstone Lakes Golf Club near Cardiff on 11 February – although with his arm in plaster, the employer could not have provided acceptable surface cover.
This was one of 16 breaches of regulations identified in a subsequent Health & Safety Executive investigation – including the fact that neither man had any dive training or qualifications, there had been no risk assessment or project plan and no checks of what had been substandard equipment.
Diving for his first time, Pugh descended into murky water no more than 2.5m deep equipped with a mask, weightbelt and air supplied through a garden hose connected to a compressor held in a rubber ring at the surface.
He had been under water for some time before Pike realised that all was not well, and the emergency services were called. It was 70 minutes since his descent before a South Wales Fire & Rescue Service dive-team was able to locate him, feet upwards and weighed down by his belt and a bag containing some 340 golfballs. He was pronounced dead at hospital.
“Dale Pike stood by and watched as Gareth entered the water, knowing that safety regulations were being breached,” said Iwan Jenkins of the Crown Prosecution Service. “His deceit and callousness resulted in Gareth losing his life.
“There was clear evidence that Pike had made enquiries with legitimate dive-operators to cost this activity but he chose not to use them, instead falsely claiming to the golf club that he was a qualified commercial diver with his own equipment.”
Pike pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter by gross negligence. Judge Keith Thomas told him that he had ignored the risks “because it would eat into your profits”.
* The body of the diver who went missing on a night-dive in Preston Hill Quarry in Fife on Sunday (9 July), as reported on Divernet, was recovered from the water on Monday morning. She has been identified as Kelda Henderson, 36, a drama teacher from Edinburgh. The cause of her death is now being investigated.