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Sudden death of wreck-diver in Wales

Anglesey coast sudden death
(Gordon Hatton)
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“A simple accident that had tragic consequences” is how a coroner has summed up the death of diver Peter John Morgan, 64, off north-west Wales last year. The fatal incident was reported at the time on Divernet.

Morgan, from Macclesfield, had some eight years’ experience as a diver, and on 12 September had accompanied fellow East Cheshire club-members on the dive-boat Top Cat to dive the Segontium, a small mussel-dredger wreck some nine miles off Anglesey.

He had entered the water with dive-buddy Michael Dennison at around 3pm. They had descended to 30-35m but missed the wreck so, as previously agreed should that happen, spent some 20 minutes exploring the seabed instead.

Dennison told the court that as they went to ascend Morgan had appeared to struggle with his buoyancy and risen rapidly. He had appeared to get his buoyancy under control but then, while 3m above his buddy, had drifted away from the line.

Dennison continued his ascent and the alarm was raised when Morgan failed to surface and the Coastguard launched a multi-agency search. Unable to join the search because they had too little air left, the divers on Top Cat reported feeling helpless. 

It was two divers from a nearby boat who eventually found Morgan’s body. He was brought to the surface and taken to Treaddur Bay lifeboat station on Anglesey, where he was pronounced dead at around 7pm.

Poor visibility

Katie Sutherland, acting senior coroner for North-west Wales, heard from Dennison that he had dived with Morgan on many previous occasions over the past three years. He said that with visibility poor on the dive they had stayed no further than 2m apart throughout the dive.

Pathologist and diver Dr Brian Rogers said that the post mortem examination had revealed microbubbles throughout Morgan’s system. The diver’s death had been recorded as drowning due to cerebral and coronary gas embolisms caused by barotrauma on ascent. An initial inquest soon after the incident had been adjourned for nine months pending further investigation, but no furtther explanation could be given for the cause of death. 

Dr Rogers said he doubted that running out of air would have been the cause of Morgan’s difficulty but that it had arisen suddenly. “He almost certainly lost consciousness, without a shadow of a doubt,” he said. “He shot up, and then dropped straight back down to the bottom and ultimately drowned… There’s nothing anyone could have done.”

Morgan left a wife, Susan, and four sons. The doctor said that, for the family’s peace of mind, his death would have happened very fast. “He would have drowned in depth like that in a matter of seconds – a few breaths and that’s it.”

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