Wreck diver died freeing 30 buoy

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Posted by on August 10, 2005 at 16:52:16:

The death of a diver who drowned after returning to a shipwreck to free a snagged marker buoy was "wholly preventable", a coroner has ruled.

Raymond Thomas, 47, of Cardiff, had been diving in Whitsand Bay but despite being short of air insisted on trying to free the 30 buoy.

He resurfaced after three minutes in a panic before sinking below the surface.

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death after hearing he died from asphyxiation caused by drowning.

Mr Thomas, a married quantity surveyor, was on a weekend diving trip to Plymouth with the Cardiff Underwater Swimming Club when the accident happened on 21 May this year.

He was one of six divers who went down to the James Egan Layne, a US Liberty ship torpedoed on her maiden voyage in March 1945 and one of the most dived wrecks in British waters.

Neil Richards, who was supervising the diving that afternoon, tried to discourage Mr Thomas and Andy Pritchard, 59, from going back to get the buoy saying they could have his.

He told Wednesday's inquest: "I didn't stop them going back in because I thought they were only going to go and cut the line."

Restriction in breathing

Mr Pritchard told the inquest he was surprised when Mr Thomas followed the line of the buoy down to the wreck.

Mr Pritchard said: "I followed him. I was then aware that I was running out of air because I could feel a restriction in my breathing."

He gestured for Mr Thomas to share his own air supply with him, but his friend replied by indicating that he was also struggling to breathe.

Mr Thomas's body was found by a separate diving party five days later on 26 May. A post-mortem examination revealed he had died of asphyxiation caused by drowning.

Plymouth coroner Nigel Meadows said: "Simple basic diving procedures were not followed, and I have absolutely no doubt had they been followed we would not be here today."

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