Family of drowned Hong Kong businessman sues Monterey dive shop

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Posted by on July 10, 2007 at 14:37:07:

THE WIFE of a senior executive for a Hong Kong shipping giant who drowned last year after a nighttime scuba diving accident in Monterey is suing a local dive shop over his death.
Eddy Tai Ming Lau, 49, died during a June 27, 2006, dive off Breakwater Cove. Now, his wife, Eliter Wing Ying Chen, is suing Monterey Bay Dive Center — where Lau rented scuba gear and hired a dive guide — for negligence.

“As a direct proximate result of Monterey Bay Dive Center’s negligence and carelessness,” according to the suit filed June 7 in Monterey County Superior Court, Lau “was seriously injured and died.”

The wrongful death lawsuit also names Dempsey Harshaw, a dive instructor employed by the shop who accompanied Lau on the fatal night dive. Harshaw denied the allegations in a response filed in court June 22.

According to Chen’s suit, Lau, a senior finance executive of China Ocean Shipping Company, was on a business trip in Monterey when he went to the Monterey Bay Dive Center at 225 Cannery Row and hired Harshaw to be his guide.

During the night dive, Harshaw and Lau dove about 100 yards off Breakwater Cove to a depth of about 25 feet, the suit indicates.

“While under water,” the suit states, “Harshaw was negligent in that he failed to keep Lau in sight and as a result, lost sight of him.”

Rescue personnel found Lau’s body under 25 feet of water, a short distance from where Harshaw last saw him, according to the suit.

Lau was taken to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy concluded he drowned.

In his response to the suit, Harshaw denied allegations of negligence and listed 14 defenses, including claiming the suit is barred by the statute of limitations, that the facts are not sufficient to constitute a lawsuit and that the accident was beyond his control.

Lau “failed to exercise the degree of care that an ordinary, prudent person in the same or similar circumstances would exercise,” Harshaw’s defense alleges.

The Pine Cone couldn’t reach Harshaw for comment.

The court document also contends Lau “knowingly and voluntarily signed a waiver releasing Harshaw of any liability as a result of participating in the extreme sport of scuba diving.”

According to the large corporation’s website, COSCO is one of the largest dry bulk shipping companies in the world, with a fleet of more than 100 shipping vessels and assets totaling more than $3 billion.

An Internet search indicates Lau was COSCO’s financial controller. Lau was formerly financial controller and director for other multinational companies, including Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.

According to the suit, Lau’s wife has suffered mental distress because of his death and been “deprived of a kind and loving spouse and of his care, comfort, protection, love, companionship and affection.”

Chen’s suit asks for a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages for the alleged negligence. She is also seeking compensation for shipping Lau’s body to Hong Kong and for funeral and memorial services.

Monterey Dive Center is owned and operated by Scuba Holdings, LLC, a Delaware-based company doing business in California, according to the suit.

Located between the U.S. Coast Guard pier and Cannery Row, Breakwater Cove is one of the Peninsula’s most popular dive spots.

The area is desirable for night dives, where divers seek out the “bioluminescence” of octopus, jellyfish and other sea creatures.

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