By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AN American man reportedly drowned while on a dive expedition with a US dive operator off West End, Grand Bahama, making it the second fatal incident this year involving US-registered vessels conducting dives in the Bahamas.
The 21-year-old man was discovered unresponsive in the water around 8pm on Monday. According to police reports, he was among passengers on board a US-registered dive boat, diving off West End.
The victim’s identity was not released yesterday and police are investigating the incident.
The Tribune has learned that the man was not a passenger, but a crew member of the Dolphin Dream, an 85-foot research yacht, out of Lake Park, Florida.
A representative of the company, when contacted yesterday, told The Tribune that they do not know what happened. “He was not a passenger, he was a member of our crew and we know nothing until an autopsy is done,” a woman from the company said.
Dolphin Dream operates “unique Bahamas adventure cruises”, which includes wild dolphin encounters, shark diving, scuba diving and custom trips to The Bahamas.
According to its website, the shark diving trip involves dives with Tiger, Lemon and Reef Sharks. The company conducts most trips for seven days and six nights. West End is a known site for shark diving.
In July, US commercial dive operator Jim Abernethy Scuba Adventures, which is based in Lake Park, Florida, lost a diver off West End during a shark diving expedition.
Dr John Petty, 63, of Texas, was diving with several others from the Shear Water when he disappeared. A three-day search was called off for Petty, who is believed to have been the victim of a fatal shark attack after his camera and shredded dive gear were discovered at the bottom of the ocean. While this latest fatality appears to be a drowning, concerns have been raised by the Bahamas Dive Association regarding dive operations conducted by US dive companies in the Bahamas.
Neal Watson, BDA president, said the association has no control over the activities of US dive operators. Mr Watson has said that the BDA is in discussions with government to establish guidelines and procedures to ensure proper safe diving procedures are followed by foreign-based operators.
Expert Bahamian diver and spear-fisherman David Rose believes that shark diving and feeding is unsafe and should be banned in The Bahamas. Shark diving tourism is a multi-million dollar industry and The Bahamas is considered one of the shark dive capitals of the world.