Posted by The Scoop on May 12, 2004 at 06:36:13:
snipped from the morning paper
Charter Owner Charged With Leaving Diver
Coast Guard suspends captain after a scuba enthusiast is stranded off the Newport coast.
By Stanley Allison and Regine Labossiere, Times Staff Writers
The owner of a scuba diving charter company has been charged with negligence by the Coast Guard after a recreational diver was left behind off Newport Beach's coastline for four hours.
Ray Leslie Arntz, owner of the boat Sundiver, could have his captain's license suspended for up to four months, Lt. Cmdr. John Fassero said Tuesday.
That captain's responsible for ensuring [that] his passengers are not left at the scene of a dive site, and that's essentially what happened," Fassero said. "There was an impression that he was on the boat by the crew."
Arntz, who was charged with first-time non-navigation negligence, voluntarily surrendered his license, Fassero said. Once an agreement is reached on the suspension, he will be credited for the time he has been without his license.
The Coast Guard, which issued the license to Arntz, has authority over charter companies and their captains.
Arntz had no comment about the incident or the Coast Guard's action.
Arntz reportedly was the officer in charge when Dan Carlock of Santa Monica surfaced from a dive April 25 only to find the charter boat had left him behind, 12 miles off the shore of Newport Beach.
"I thought it was a piece of trash, but I wanted to make sure," he said.
Fassero said this was a very isolated incident. "I can't recall in the past four years of anything happening similar to this. It's very exceptional in the dive boat industry. This is just not the normal situation."
Carlock had boarded the Sundiver at Harbor Marine in Long Beach and dived with the first group about 8:45 a.m. He had trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears, which caused him to fall behind the others.
When he felt ready to continue, he could see only their trail of bubbles.
Carlock remembers being afloat for almost four hours, from about 9:15 a.m. He kept a log and took pictures of himself. He marked the hours with a pencil and slate that was attached to his suit.
Carlock could have succumbed to hypothermia or been run over by a large ship if he had not been rescued by the scouts, Fassero said.
"This could have been a homicide investigation," Fassero said.
The Coast Guard, which filed charges Monday, is negotiating with Arntz and his attorney on the terms of the suspension, Fassero said.
The suspension could be reduced in combination with community service, such as Arntz's helping to heighten awareness of safety issues in the diving community, Fassero said.
Arntz could appeal the suspension, but so far "he's being very cooperative," Fassero said. "From the first time we've spoken, he's taken responsibility for the incident, and he has not had any previous incidents on his record."
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