Separated diver strikes lucky – but instructor missing

Rescue of a diver separated from his boat (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)
Rescue of a diver separated from his boat (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

A scuba diver separated from his dive-boat off the Florida Keys had a lucky break in late July thanks to two vigilant law-enforcement officers – but a Keys diving instructor who went missing yesterday (2 August) has still to be found.

The off-duty men from Marion County Sheriff’s Office in Florida were relaxing on a fishing trip six miles offshore when they spotted what they thought was an injured seabird, some 400m away. 

Lieutenants Woolf and Thoresen drove over and, as they got closer, realised that what they had seen were not flapping wings but a scuba diver drifting away from land. They pulled him aboard and contacted the US Coast Guard – which informed them that it had just received a call from a dive-boat about a diver who had been swept away by currents.

The Coast Guard passed on the boat’s co-ordinates and the officers were able to drive some two miles to return the missing diver.

“Call it luck, call it being vigilant even on their days off, call it whatever you want. We may just call it a miracle,” commented the Sheriff’s Office later. “We are happy to report that the diver was safely returned in good health and the lieutenants were able to land a few fish by the end of the day too!”

Missing on the Vandenberg

However, days later the Coast Guard was alerted again when another diver was reported missing at about 10am yesterday (2 August), near the USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg troop-transport shipwreck off Key West. 

And this time the emergency service had to launch a full search and rescue operation. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office dive-team was checking the wreck-site using an ROV, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has also been involved in the search.

Missing diver Thomas Faulkenberry
Missing diver Thomas Faulkenberry

The diver, named as Thomas Aaron Faulkenberry, 44, from Stock Island in Florida, was reported to have been diving from the Lost Reef Adventures dive-boat Dream Cat.

Sunk in 2009, the 156m-long Vandenberg is the USA’s second-largest artificial reef and sits at a maximum depth of 44m. Because it is a well-used wreck-site the Coast Guard issued an appeal for any other divers who might have information about Faulkenberry, who had been wearing all-black dive-gear, to get in touch.

Also on Divernet: Buoyed freediver survives boat separation, US diver survives 20-hour drift, Diver endures seven-hour drift after separation

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Billy Costello
Billy Costello
6 months ago

Putting these stories together while an ongoing search for a lost diver is underway, shows a complete lack of judgment. Family and friends are searching for any news on Tommy, and your opening line starts with a lucky turn of events for another diver. There are two separate stories here. Keep them separate.

Jerry Stephenson
Jerry Stephenson
Reply to  Billy Costello
6 months ago

Have you nothing better to do Billy, did you ever think maybe it is encouraging for them to hear another got rescued.

Ljones
Ljones
Reply to  Billy Costello
6 months ago

I agree, keep the stories separate, Tommy is a friend and they are tirelessly still looking for him! Hopes are diminishing, but I still hold out! Although I do appreciate that a young diver was rescued which is good news, but let’s focus now and finding anything about Tommy, please!

Deb
Deb
6 months ago

Thankfully the men were concerned about wildlife… To verify the situation!!!

Deb
Deb
6 months ago

Thanks for the inspirational story !!

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