widow sues dive buddy of her late husband for murder

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Posted by on March 25, 2005 at 08:20:56:

SANTA ANA, California (24 Mar 2005) -- The widow of a Laguna Niguel man who died while scuba diving is suing his "diving buddy" for $4.5 million, alleging her husband's friend caused his death.

Brenda Palmer-Shatz filed a suit in Orange County Superior Court, saying Daryll Shatz's drowning on Nov. 30, 2003, was because of Steve Feldman's actions, "whether negligent or intentional," and done to cover up an unreported traffic accident by Feldman's daughter.

Feldman of Mission Viejo vehemently denied the allegations, saying he tried to help a panicked diver as best he could.

"Tragedies do happen without the other person being at fault," Feldman said Thursday. "I grieve for the loss of a very dear friend, a close and dear friend. I grieve for my friend's family and his wife, as well as for the impact of the tragedy on my own family and friends."

Daryll Shatz, 55, died while diving with Feldman 20 yards off Montage Beach, near Laguna Beach. Shatz had just completed 100 dives and was a member of the South Orange County Dive Club.

According to a preliminary investigation done at the time, Shatz's air hose became disconnected and his buoyancy compensator failed, said Capt. Danell Adams of the Laguna Beach Police Department. The Orange County coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning, she said.

"Nothing out of the ordinary was discovered," Adams said.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that Shatz didn't die because of equipment malfunction or because he panicked after a medical problem. Feldman failed in his role of dive buddy, a "special relationship" that required him to come to the aid of his diving partner, the suit says.

"Darryl Shatz was a meticulous, careful diver who's a computer programmer, analyst and scientist by profession, a person who took the most meticulous care of his equipment and his scuba dives just as he constructed his computer sites," said Lon B. Isaacson, Palmer-Shatz's attorney.

Palmer-Shatz believes Feldman removed some of Shatz's equipment so he would drown, the suit says. That would prevent Shatz from telling authorities about a hit-and-run that Feldman's daughter had been involved in, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit alleges that Feldman confided in Shatz before the dive that Feldman's daughter, who was on probation, had been involved in a hit-and-run accident. Feldman asked for Shatz's advice on how to handle it, the suit says, and Palmer-Shatz believes that her husband told Feldman to report his daughter to the police.

"Feldman wanted to keep Shatz from telling others, including the authorities, that Feldman's daughter had been guilty of committing an illegal hit-and-run accident," the suit says.

But Feldman said he told Shatz about the accident months before the dive and it was, in fact, just a "fender-bender."

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