Posted by on December 11, 2004 at 11:05:12:
In Reply to: Double Cave Diving Fatality in Mexico posted by JR Gordon on December 10, 2004 at 11:56:22:
Dentist, lawyer killed in Cancun diving accident
Lancaster Catholic men were friends on vacation together in Mexico. Family and friends remember them as caring and adventurous.
By Cindy Stauffer
Lancaster New Era
Published: Dec 11, 2004 12:08 PM EST
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - Kent Hirsch and Michael Nast were cast from the same mold.
Passionate, athletic men, they cut a colorful, vibrant path through life.
Hirsch, 53, a dentist with a practice in Centerville, was a bicyclist and skier, who recently took up skydiving.
Nast, 36, an antitrust lawyer with his family’s Lancaster-based firm, was a bicyclist and marathon runner, who gardened, and loved wine and animals.
What brought the two men together was their shared love: scuba diving. They dove together off the coasts of Florida and New Jersey, exploring shipwrecks and underwater caves.
They even each had diving nicknames. Hirsch’s was Dr. Deco, short for decompression. Nast’s was Caveman.
The two friends died together Thursday morning while diving in an underwater cave in Mexico.
As a professional, he was extremely competent and as a person, just like the rest of his family, he was a class act. It’s just a total loss for the bar, said Christopher Lyden, a local defense attorney who was a friend of Nast’s.
Said Dr. Aggie Varaday, a fellow diver and orthodontist who sometimes filled in at Hirsch’s practice, Kent was very passionate about life. He just had this boundless energy. ... Everyone who knew him just loved him. His enthusiasm just bubbled over.
The two men, both experienced cave divers, died while exploring an underwater cavern just west of the Mayan ruins at Tulum, about 80 miles south of Cancun. They were diving in deep wells, called cenotes, that lead to water-filled caves.
A Mexican newspaper, Por Esto!, reported that the two men apparently somehow got lost in the tunnels of the cave. The two men were with two other divers, William and Jane Downey, also from Pennsylvania, who managed to get back to the surface.
Hirsch was a meticulous diver who carefully planned his excursions and took no chances, Varaday said. She cannot imagine how he and Nast got into trouble.
Mediocrity was never an option with Kent, she said.
Family and friends of the divers today said the two men touched many with their enthusiasm, intelligence and caring.
Nast began his legal career here as a clerk for former president Judge D. Richard Eckman. He left that position to work for the district attorney’s office in Luzerne County, then returned to Lancaster to work at the local district attorney’s office. From there, he went to the state attorney general’s office, where he prosecuted Medicare fraud cases, and then returned again to Lancaster to practice with Roda & Nast, the law firm run by his parents, Dianne Nast and Joseph Roda.
Lancaster County Judge Joseph Madenspacher, a former county district attorney, hired Nast for the DA’s office.
He was just so smart, Madenspacher said. Everything just came easily to him. He had what I would call a charming personality, which is absolutely the thing you want if you’re going to be a good attorney in court.
Local District Justice Bruce Roth, who clerked with Nast and later worked with him at the district attorney’s office, recalled an auto theft case in which Nast was so confident about the evidence that he declined to give a closing statement, an unorthodox move that did not cost him the case.
In Luzerne County, Nast made headlines when he successfully prosecuted a woman who poisoned her husband’s iced tea.
A family member said Nast never overlooked details in the complex civil cases he handled. The day he left for his Mexican vacation with his wife, he sent his office 102 e-mails, so that details of his work were not overlooked.
Nast got married this summer to Dr. Julie Brahmer, a pulmonary oncologist who practiced at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The two had homes in Baltimore and Lancaster.
Nast had many interests outside of work.
Roth said his friend was a Renaissance man, a scholar and an athlete who enjoyed gardening, growing spices and vegetables. He also loved cooking and wines.
Nast cared for his friends, celebrating their accomplishments and offering sage advice, Roth and Lyden said. He was fun to be around.
He was hilarious, Roth said. He had a very enjoyable sense of humor.
The family member said Nast loved animals, once adopting a frightened cat from the Humane League.
She stayed under his bed for a month, the family member said. He named her Baby. She weighs 20 pounds now. We still have her.
Hirsch was a graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park and its dental school. He had his local practice for about 15 years.
He and his wife, Wendy, have a 3-year-old daughter, Madison. He also has two grown children, Matthew and Robin, who are both in college.
He was fun, adventurous and charming, Mrs. Hirsch said.
She recalled fondly a family trip to Europe two summers ago, when her husband did a charity bicycle ride, raising money for AIDS vaccine research. Mrs. Hirsch and Madison drove the route of the ride and stayed with Hirsch in the towns along the way.
Mrs. Hirsch bought her husband a skydiving jump for his 53rd birthday, and he later took his daughter Robin for a jump. This summer, he and Matthew went skiing together in Chile.
He just loved to be alive and prove to himself that he was alive, she said.
Hirsch taught scuba diving courses and was strict about students measuring up to standards, wanting to ensure their safety, she said.
He also was a generous man. This summer, he bought 500 yellow, rubber livestrong bracelets, a fund-raiser for cancer survivors, handing them out to patients and friends.
A former president of the board of the Hearing Conservation/Deaf Services, he had a number of deaf patients in his practice.
Dr. Stephen Sudbrink, the president of the Lancaster County Dental Society, said the society is going to try to get volunteers to help run Hirsch’s solo practice until it can be sold.
Varaday said Hirsch’s patients will miss him.
One of the quirks about Kent was he had this rapid-fire speech, she said; he would talk so fast. ... His little motto and we’d laugh every time he’d say it when he was signing off or saying goodbye, he’d say, ‘Dive, dive, dive!’
That’s one of the things I’ll always remember about him.
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