Instructor Steven O. Donathan lost amid wreckage

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Posted by on June 27, 2005 at 05:47:40:

In Reply to: Searchers Unable To Locate Missing Diver on the Yukon posted by on June 27, 2005 at 01:18:02:

The second day of searching for a missing scuba instructor off the coast of Mission Beach ended without success yesterday.

Authorities planned to resume searching at dawn today in the wreckage of a sunken warship where the veteran diver was last seen and his tethering line was found. The missing diver was identified by the San Diego Police Department as 50-year-old Steven O. Donathan.

For two days rescue workers have searched by helicopter, Coast Guard cutter and with more than 30 scuba divers performing more than 60 dives. San Diego Lifeguard Sgt. Troy Keach said they've searched 90 percent of the Yukon, a popular spot for divers 100 feet below the surface.

"For someone as experienced as Steve, the Yukon should have been a piece of cake," said Steve Haynes, former president of San Diego Council of Divers, who heard that the missing diver was Donathan.

Donathan's family and loved ones were bayside yesterday during the search, officials said. Donathan, who is presumed dead, ran his own independent diving instruction company and was giving lessons to another experienced diver, who became separated from him around 6 p.m.

Rescue efforts remained focused on the Yukon, a 366-foot decommissioned Canadian warship sunk in the so-called Wreck Alley.

The Yukon was deliberately sunk 2 miles off Mission Beach five years ago. It was the site of a fatal dive in late 2000 when Monica Vila, a 41-year-old recreational diver, died as she descended toward the warship with two family members.

Another experienced diver Mia Tegner, a 53-year-old marine biologist, died about a week later after diving on the Yukon and other sunken ships. Authorities say she ran out of air as she was coming to the surface, missing a decompression stop. Instead of heading to a hyperbaric chamber, investigators believe she grabbed another tank and dove back in to decompress and was never seen alive again.

Donathan was a San Diego native who was a "technical diver," certified to dive hundreds of feet below the surface. On his Web site, West Coast Tekies, he wrote about being the son of one the pioneers of scuba diving and of his love of going to greater and greater depths.

"Taking diving to its limits and beyond," he wrote. "I looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back."

Donathan spent years searching for the wreckage of a B-36 bomber that crashed during a test flight off the coast of La Jolla in 1952, and in 2004 led a History Channel film crew to his discovery 260 feet down.

A memorial service is being planned for Wednesday at La Jolla Shores.

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