Tech titan killed during shipwreck exploration

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Posted by on February 20, 2007 at 19:16:17:

In Reply to: Semiconductor Insights CEO dies in diving accident posted by on February 20, 2007 at 19:08:01:

In his work as the CEO of a hi-tech firm, Doug Smeaton always sketched out a strategy.

In his free time, the president of Semiconductor Insights tackled diving with the same methodical attention, preparing for everything and leaving nothing to chance.

It was the same on Sunday, when the 57-year-old Kanata man slipped under the ice on the St. Lawrence River in his wetsuit, harness and airflow regulator.

Everything had been planned but this time, something went horribly wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, OPP divers pulled Smeaton's body from the river, about 24 hours after police were called to the popular scuba diving spot near Rockport, east of Gananoque.


Smeaton and another Kanata man had been diving about 27 metres below the ice surface and 240 metres from shore.

Assisted by a guide line, Smeaton was exploring a favourite shipwreck shortly before noon Sunday when he had trouble with his breathing apparatus.

His partner tried to help him with his own regulator but Smeaton was unconscious and unable to take air, said OPP Const. Dana Mellon.

A group of nearby divers from New Jersey located Smeaton under the ice but were not able to pull him to the surface.

Smeaton, who served as a VP at Mitel Semiconductor before taking the helm at the Mosaid spinoff Semiconductor Insights in 1992, was a mentor to many, said Jenn Markey, VP of marketing at Semiconductor Insights.

"He was very generous with his time. He believed very strongly in people. He was almost a father figure, especially at our office in Kanata," said Markey.


Smeaton, a married father of three grown sons, swam on his lunch hours and thrived on the technical challenges of diving, said Randall Freeborn, a longtime colleague.

"Everything he did was done so carefully. He had the best equipment and had planned out his dives and left nothing to chance," said Freeborn, VP of human resources at Semiconductor Insights.

Smeaton took up diving about 10 years ago and earned an advanced certification level that allowed him to dive in challenging locales, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Sea of Japan.

Markey said Smeaton once told her that dipping below the water's surface gave him a sense of freedom.

"He explained that when he's under water, his mind is tremendously clear," said Markey.

"You have to focus in order to survive and it takes out the day-to-day activities, stress and chatter in your mind."

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