Search and rescue operations for Maldivian diving instructor Mohamed Saeed, who went missing on Monday (2 May), have been called off after 72 hours. They were hampered by some of the heaviest rain and strongest winds of the year.
A discarded weightbelt was found at a depth of 68m on one of four search-dives carried out yesterday (4 May) but hopes had faded that Saeed, who disappeared off the far southern atoll of Fuvahmulah, would be found alive.
The Coast Guard’s southern 4th Squadron, part of the Maldives National Defence Force, received reports at around 3.45pm local time that Saeed had gone diving at the celebrated Tiger Zoo dive-site about 75 minutes earlier.
He had been with another man, Mahmood Faiz, who was reported to have been rescued in critical condition and was being treated for decompression illness at a hyperbaric chamber 350km away, at the Kandima Maldives resort in Dhaalu Atoll.
Saeed had been wearing a black shortie wetsuit, black fins and mask and was carrying an orange surface marker buoy.
It was not confirmed how or why the men were diving at the site, but what was described as a “fishing tool”, understood to be a speargun used by Saeed, was recovered by Coast Guard divers the day after his disappearance. It was found at a depth of 59m on a slope that dropped to around 100m, as divers continued to search the area.
The Coast Guard co-ordinated a search operation that initially involved two patrol boats and its dive-team. Later a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft were also deployed as the search was widened, in poor and worsening weather conditions, to cover some 55sq nautical miles. The Coast Guard requested all boat traffic in the area to remain vigilant.
Saeed, with some 20 years of diving experience, was reported to have been working at a guesthouse in Fuvahmulah City. PADI 5* centre Fuvahmulah Dive School, where he had been general manager from 2017 to 2019, told Divernet that “the accident which happened to him is very stupid but does not relate to the diving itself or sharks at all…
“All our diving community is very sad; it’s a very big loss for us. He had three children, and the youngest is only three years old. The ocean took him forever… it’s one more lesson, always follow the rules.”
The large inhabited island of Fuvahmulah has become one of the Maldives’ diving hotspots in recent years. It’s unusual underwater topography attracts big pelagic species including the resident tiger sharks after which Tiger Zoo is named, along with thresher, hammerhead and whale sharks and oceanic manta rays.