Austrian rebreather diver Axel Schoeller has died following a dive understood to have been carried out solo to a depth of around 100m off Protaras in eastern Cyprus.
The 60-year-old lived on the island, at Paralimni about 10km inland, and had been carrying out a wreck-dive on 1 June. He was found unconscious at the surface by a friend, about 1.4 nautical miles out from the Golden Coast marine area, and Famagusta Police were alerted at around 1.20pm.
Coast Guard officers helped to bring Schoeller ashore and an ambulance took him to Famagusta General Hospital, where he was declared dead.
According to some reports the diver had been using the CCR Trilogy configuration that he had spent the past five years developing with other divers in Cyprus, as a means of maximising dive-time. The rig was based around a single Divesoft CCR Liberty backmount combined with two sidemount rebreathers.
An initial post mortem examination failed to reveal the cause of death. Famagusta police said there had been no signs of suffocation or drowning, but that tissue samples had been taken to allow laboratory tests to be conducted.
A former merchant seaman, Schoeller had started diving in Germany’s Baltic and inland sites, and went on to work with Mel Fisher’s Atocha wreck-salvage team in the USA, and with eco-activists Sea Shepherd. He took part in DAN chamber-diving experiments and travelled widely as a commercial diver for the construction and oil and gas industries.
He had begun technical diving in the late 1990s in Florida under the guidance of Captain Billy Deans and then Kevin Gurr and Dave Thompson in the UK, becoming qualified on a number of rebreather units. He also worked on a variety of maritime archaeology projects in Asia, the UK and the Mediterranean, and eventually settled in Cyprus.
In 2019, Schoeller was the diver who discovered the body of a victim of Cypriot serial killer Nikos ‘Orestis’ Metaxas, who had murdered five women and two girls between 2016 and 2018.
Schoeller had found the first body in a mine-shaft near Mitsero, and went on to help find others in nearby Red Lake. He was later described as an “unsung hero” by investigators, with the discoveries leading to Metaxas receiving seven life sentences.
Schoeller’s death occurred the day after publication in the InDepth online technical-diving magazine of his comprehensive account of how he had developed the CCR Trilogy rig.
Diver dies on Philippines liveaboard dive
A scuba diver has died following a dive from the liveaboard Solitude One in the Philippines.
The operator issued a statement the day after the incident, which occurred on Monday, 5 June. It said that a group including the diver, their buddy and a dive-guide had been surfacing from an afternoon dive. The divers had “strictly adhered to safety protocols, including the necessary safety stop”, stated Solitude.
The surfacing divers had been spotted by the crew of the waiting diving skiff, one of two used from the liveaboard, but when it went to bring them onboard one was found to be unconscious. On the boat the dive-guide had administered CPR and provided the guest with oxygen while the liveaboard crew were alerted to the situation.
A defibrillator was used in a further attempt to resuscitate the diver, and the Philippine Coast Guard were informed of the situation and attended the scene. Solitude One abandoned its planned itinerary and followed the Coast Guard into the nearest port, but the guest was confirmed to have died.
Solitude issued an appeal to the public to “refrain from engaging in speculative discussions that go beyond the confirmed facts provided” and to respect the privacy of the unnamed diver’s family.
In the Philippines the 52m Solitude One operates seven-day Tubbataha and 11-day Anilao-Surigao itineraries for up to 22 guests at a time between April and August. At other times of year it operates in Micronesia. Solitude also operates a 36m catamaran in Indonesia and has resorts there and in the Philippines.