It’s a terrifying thought that probably crosses the mind of every deep-sea diver – to resurface after a dive, only to discover that the boat that dropped you off is gone. And that predators in the waters are preparing to pounce. And the currents are swift and strong. And night is rapidly approaching.
All of those thoughts and more hit diver Paul Kline in the gut Sunday when he and another diver resurfaced three miles off Key Biscayne with no boat in sight.
“We were in shock,” said Kline, 44, visiting from Austin. “We could easily have died.”
Kline, a certified deep-sea diver, and Fernando García Puerta, a tourist from Spain, held on to a small fishing buoy for more than two hours until passengers on a boat spotted them and the captain stopped to rescue them.
It was 6:40 p.m. and conditions were getting worse. Waves were kicking up three to four-feet high and the winds were at 15 knots, according to Elie Trichet, captain of the “No Compromise” a 82-feet Sunseeker yacht headed back to Miami from Key Largo.
“We could see two divers with all their equipment and an inflated red tube.’’ The tube is commonly used in the diving community to signal when they come out of the water.
“You could notice a strong feeling of relief [when they saw us],’’ said Trichet, a diving instructor himself. “They had been clinging to that buoy for two hours hoping somebody would rescue them.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the incident, said Sabrina Elgammal, the Miami
“We were contacted after the divers were found,” Elgammal said, declining to elaborate further.
Here’s what happened, according to Kline:
The divers were part of a large group that went out Sunday with Captain Mike Beach, of RJ Diving Ventures, a Miami-Beach-based company.
Kline said he paid $85 for the four-hour trip, which includes two one-hour dives at different sites. He and Garcia had just met.
The boat dropped everyone off at one site to see coral reef and marine life. Roughly an hour later, the boat picked up anchor and took the divers to another site.
Fifty-five minutes after diving the second time, Kline and Garcia came up to the surface and the boat was gone.
Kline said they initially thought that perhaps a diver had an emergency, forcing the boat to take off, but they felt another would come along soon to pick them up.
After a while they realized they had been forgotten.
It is unclear how Beach lost track of the two. He did not answer questions about the incident Monday.
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