Diver's body found in sunken warship off Mission Beach

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Posted by on June 27, 2005 at 16:45:12:

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

Instructor disappeared during dive 1 days ago

SAN DIEGO The body of a missing scuba instructor was found in a sunken warship off the coast of Mission Beach Monday afternoon, 1 days after he was last seen alive.

Authorities had been searching for 50-year-old Steven O. Donathan of San Diego since Saturday night, when he vanished during a dive to the Yukon, a scuttled destroyer 100 feet below the surface.

"We were notified by the diving team that they have located him," said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan. "He was on the bottom level of the Yukon, the sixth level, basically on the ocean floor. He's in a very difficult place to access, in very close quarters."

Some 25 divers had been helping search for Donathan, Buchanan said. Donathan's family was at the lifeguard headquarters Monday awaiting recovery of his body.

A small group of divers was expected to go into the Yukon after carefully planning how to remove the body from the ship, Buchanan said. He said it was too early to tell what caused the experienced diver's death.

"My understanding is (the recovery group) will be videotaped and dive in a very meticulous manner in an effort to explain what happened," Buchanan said.

For two days rescue workers had searched by helicopter and Coast Guard cutter, with more than 30 scuba divers performing more than 60 total dives.

Five years ago the Yukon, a 366-foot decommissioned Canadian destroyer, was sunk two miles off Mission Beach in an area deemed Wreck Alley.

Donathan is the first person to die while diving inside the wreck. Two others have died in connection with Yukon dives, one on the way down to the sunken ship and another after earlier visiting the site.

Donathan was certified to dive hundreds of feet below the surface and had written about how much he loved reaching greater depths. After years of searching, Donathan led a TV crew to the wreckage of a B-36 bomber that crashed off the coast of La Jolla during a test flight in 1952.

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

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