2003 article about the accident

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Posted by jlyle on March 25, 2005 at 09:45:49:

In Reply to: widow sues dive buddy of her late husband for murder posted by on March 25, 2005 at 08:20:56:

The Orange County Register

LAGUNA BEACH Daryll Shatz was known as a conservative diver, scrupulous about his scuba equipment.

That made it hard for fellow diving enthusiasts to accept that the Laguna Niguel computer analyst died Sunday while diving in a Laguna Beach cove and that malfunctioning gear might have contributed to his apparent drowning.

"He was not a risk-taker or a foolhardy person. He was not one of the people you would expect this to happen to," said Rick Valasek of San Juan Capistrano, a fellow officer in the South Orange County Dive Club.

Shatz's body was recovered about 20 yards off Montage Beach - formerly known as Treasure Island Beach in an area known as Golf Cove by rescue divers from Laguna Beach and state lifeguards.

A 911 call from Shatz's diving partner at 11:15 a.m. brought Laguna Beach police, fire and lifeguard personnel to the beach. They were joined by Harbor Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard craft, as well as a helicopter from the Newport Beach Police Department.

The diving partner, Steve Feldman of Mission Viejo, said he and Shatz were trying to handle an equipment problem with Schatz's inflater hose, which helps regulate a diver's buoyancy, when Shatz slipped underwater, Laguna lifeguard Capt. Kevin Snow said.

"I dove with him there a week ago, in the same spot," said Konrad Fry, the dive club's president. "It was beautiful. Underwater caves, schools of fish and sea life," Fry said.

Shatz, who turned 55 a week ago, began diving three years ago and Sunday was his 101st dive, Fry said.

"He loved every minute of it. He was an incredible person, sweet, giving and kind," he said.

Fry and Valasek remembered dive trips to San Diego, Catalina Island, the Coronados, and Cozumel, Mexico.

"Daryll was very outgoing and enthusiastic about getting new members into the club and promoting the sport," Valasek said. Fry credited Shatz with helping build the club from 50 members to more than 200, partly by bringing in top-flight speakers to the club's meetings, such as a famous National Geographic underwater photographer. Shatz opened his Somerset Point home to club meetings and threw a barbecue to celebrate a new relationship with a Dana Point dive shop, Fry said.

On Sunday, news spread to the six neighboring homes on the one-block cul-de-sac where Shatz lived.

Next-door neighbor Belinda Bain tearfully recounted how she had teased Shatz on Saturday as he put up outdoor Christmas decorations.

"I joked with him that he was making the rest of us look bad," she said.

Bain called Shatz's wife, Brenda, after finding out why a police officer and chaplain came to the Shatzes' door about 2 p.m. Brenda Shatz said she had family around her and asked neighbors to give her time.

"She adored him," Bain said. "He was her world."

She said she would take up a collection among the neighbors to send flowers, "just to let her know we are there for her, any time," Bain said.

"They're the greatest neighbors. It's so sad," said Julie Cook, who lives across the street.

"It's a shocker," said her husband, Greg.

Fry was unsettled by the manner in which Shatz died.

"He was extraordinarily competent. He was rescue-certified. He double- and triple-checked his equipment," he said.

Fry said he spoke with Feldman after the accident and said Shatz, as experienced as he was, might have panicked when his air hose disconnected from the inflater attached to his buoyancy compensator. The compensator is worn like a vest. Divers use it to stay at the depth they want by pressing a button to inflate or deflate the vest. Shatz and Feldman were on the surface trying to fix the problem after they had walked into the water from the beach. Shatz was not wearing his swim fins, Feldman told authorities and Fry.

Feldman dove to locate Shatz and when he could not find him, yelled for somebody to call 911 and alerted a Montage Resort employee, who dove into the water, too, searching until lifeguards arrived.

Feldman declined an interview request.

"Steve did everything he could," Fry said. "They were best friends and it's hard not to blame yourself. That's what happens when you are a dive buddy. He's torn up."

The club will plan a diving memorial for Shatz to remember the man who became so enthralled with diving that he spent thousands of dollars on an underwater digital camera and whose pictures grace the club's Web site, Fry said.

The cause of Shatz's death will be determined by the Orange County coroner's office, which also will examine Shatz's scuba equipment.

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