Diving accident claims former ADA

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Posted by on December 15, 2004 at 01:39:50:

In Reply to: Double Cave Diving Fatality in Mexico posted by JR Gordon on December 10, 2004 at 11:56:22:

Michael Nast, involved in the Joann Curley case, and another man die in Mexico.

WILKES-BARRE - Friends of former Luzerne County assistant district attorney Michael Nast said they are devastated by his death Thursday in a deep-sea diving accident off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

Nast, 37, of Lancaster, and another diver, Kent Hirsch, 53, died after they apparently got lost while exploring an underwater cavern just west of the Mayan ruins at Tulum, the Lancaster New Era newspaper reported. Two other divers with the men were able to find their way out.

Nast served as an assistant district attorney from 1995 to 1998 under Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. He took part in several major cases, including the prosecution of Joann Curley, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to the poisoning death of her husband, Robert.

Olszewski, now a county judge, described Nast as a talented attorney whose zeal for the law was equalled only by his zest for life.

"He enjoyed life and helped others enjoy it as well," Olszewski said. "He was always fun to be with and had a good wit."

Former First Assistant District Attorney Dan Pillets worked with Nast on the Curley case. He said Nast developed a number of close friendships during his years in Luzerne County. Learning of his death "was like a punch in the stomach."

Nast, who grew up in Lancaster from age 13, returned to his hometown after leaving Wilkes-Barre to take a post with the district attorney's office there. He later served as a prosecutor with the state Office of Attorney General before returning to private practice in his family's law firm in Lancaster.

Nast specialized in highly complex anti-trust and class-action cases and was considered a rising star in the Lancaster legal community. Olszewski said Nast's name had recently been mentioned as a candidate for judge in Lancaster.

"He was bright, intelligent and articulate," Olszewski said. "He had a hard work ethic and was always enthusiastic."

It was Nast's intelligence that led him to push the limits in seeking challenges, said his friend and former co-worker, attorney Greg Fellerman.

"He was so bright, things came to him naturally. Cave diving really challenged him. That's why he liked it so much," Fellerman said.

Nast enjoyed bicycling and running in addition to diving. He competed in a number of cycling events and ran several marathons.

Fellerman said he always worried about Nast's love for diving and tried to discourage his friend from the sport.

"We had a lot of conversations. To me it was very dangerous. But it was something he loved," he said. "He was a very, very experienced diver, but he made a wrong turn and that was it."

Nast is survived by his wife, Julie R. Brahmer, a physician whom he married in June. Also surviving are his parents, three brothers and a sister, all of Lancaster.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Church of St. Leo the Great, 2427 Marietta Ave., Lancaster. The family will receive friends today from 4 to 7 p.m. at their home at 1059 Sylvan Road, Lancaster. Arrangements are under the direction of the Charles Snyder Funeral Home, Lititz.

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