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.
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.