Two state divers drown during routine pump inspection

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Posted by on February 07, 2007 at 20:39:32:

(02-07) 18:14 PST LOS BANOS -- Two divers with the state Department of Water Resources drowned this morning while they were performing a routine check at a pumping plant in Merced County, authorities said.

The cause of their death is unknown. The men were sent to inspect underwater equipment at the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant, about 10 miles south of Los Banos, around 10 a.m., said department spokeswoman Sue Sims.

The inspection was expected to take about 20 minutes. The divers were about 30 feet under water and had about two to three feet of visibility, said department spokesman Don Strickland.

The divers were tethered together, which is typical in underwater inspections, Sims said. When they did not emerge after 20 minutes, a third diver who was waiting for them on the surface dove in after them and found their bodies.

The names of the dead divers have not yet been released pending notification of their families.

One of the men had been with the department for 19 years and was an experienced diver, Sims said. The second man was a six-year employee of the department and had less underwater experience, but was fully trained and certified, she said.

Sims said this was the first fatal accident in the department's history.

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