Marin man drowns scuba diving



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Posted by . on October 20, 2003 at 10:39:10:

Marin man drowns scuba diving
Local filmmaker, 41, had aired on KQED

Nicholas Armington took to scuba diving "like a fish" after he tried it while vacationing on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas about eight years ago.

"He loved the serenity of the ocean," said Armington's wife, Sari Armington. "Actually he said he felt very close to God, and he's not a religious person.''

On Saturday, Nick Armington, a filmmaker from San Rafael, died after being pulled from the waters of the Pacific near Ventura.

He died of asphyxiation due to drowning, the Ventura County Coroner's Office told his family. He had turned 41 last Wednesday.

Armington and his wife had recently begun to make documentaries for public television. Earlier this year, their production, "The Plunge: Time Laps Through History," aired on KQED. The profile of a grand public swimming hall in Richmond that mirrored the city's history was well received.

The couple's next production for KQED was to be called "The Funnies: Life in the Comics," a look at the history of newspaper comic strips shot in high- definition.

"It's a terrible loss," said Bayley Silleck, a director of IMAX films who lives in New York and worked with Armington on several projects. "Nick is one of those very positive, vibrant guys. He'd just begun to flex his professional muscles."

Armington was pulled from the waters around Anacapa Island, a wonderland of lava tubes, sea caves and kelp forests roughly 14 miles from Ventura.

He had been scuba diving with a group off the 85-foot commercial dive boat Spectre at about 2:45 p.m. when he suddenly surfaced near shore, waving his hands. But he was unconscious and face-down by the time rescue divers from the boat reached him, authorities said.

A Ventura County Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue team training in the area overheard a distress call from the Spectre, and arrived to find Armington receiving CPR, said Sheriff's Capt. Chris Lathrop. The team, which included a paramedic and two EMTs, sped Armington toward the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, continuing CPR. But he was pronounced dead by a waiting ambulance crew at 4:10 p.m.

"He lived every day like it was his last,'' Sari Armington said Sunday. "He was an optimist who believed in the goodness of the human spirit, but not na‘vely.''

Sari Armington described her husband as a hard-working filmmaker who composed his own keyboard music and pushed the limits of video technology.

"Nick took his work very seriously, but he did not take life seriously. He had a great sense of humor, and he motivated and inspired people," she said.

Armington was born in Manhattan, an only child who followed his late father into filmmaking. He attended Dartmouth, making spending money as a disc jockey and by giving sailing lessons. He worked for many years for Westvaco, the large paper and packaging company, as an in-house media producer, friends and family members said.

Nick met Sari at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. After they married, he moved from Manhattan to California. Together, they started Alchemedia Ltd. in Point Richmond with a motto of "We tell stories on screens."

"Above all, he had enormous talent -- like his father did," said Armington's mother, Dr. Irene Meister-Armington of New York. Plans for Bay Area and New York memorial services are pending.

Email Demian Bulwa at dbulwa@sfchronicle.com.



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