I’m a British diver and a member of BSAC for 15 years I was diving with two other Britons who lost their lives off Gozo, Malta last June and I’ve been charged with involuntary homicide by a Gozo magistrate’s court in July, and served with an extradition order to face trial in Malta.
The Crown Prosecution Service in England will send me to Malta in August to defend the charge, accompanied by an esteemed British medical doctor and an expert in diving medicine and accidents
While remaining in Britain I have been electronically tagged, and have to report to a police station three times a day and observe a night-time curfew.
The move came as a shock given that an inquest at Brighton & Hove Coroner’s Court in February had returned a verdict of accidental death for the two divers, who died during the shore-dive holidaying members of the British Sub-Aqua Club’s Brighton branch BSAC 007
We were following the popular route between the Inland Sea and the Blue Hole. I was buddied with one of the deceased at the front of the group as we finned close to the shoreline at a depth of 10-12m. The others were following when, without warning, the deceased made a sharp turn seaward and descended sharply whilst still finning
I was practically shoulder-to-shoulder with my buddy but her turn occurred outside my peripheral vision so I did not note it immediately. The others saw it, immediately behind and followed my buddy, whose exhalation bubbles indicated rapid breathing.
They got to her at a depth of 35m and, with the diver blank-eyed and unresponsive, conducted a controlled buoyant lift to the surface. On the surface I summoned help and instructed the two other divers to get out of the water and towed my buddy ashore in a sea state lumpy enough to make it difficult to get her onto and up a rocky slope, but people ashore provided help.
A German doctor who happened to be among the tourist conducted CPR on the diver until the emergency services arrived and declared her to be dead.
The other diver had seemingly been fine as he helped bring my buddy to shore but, as she was removed from the sea, we realised that he was no longer with us and, with his BC inflated, had drifted out to sea.
One of the divers ran to where a RIB was moored and was able to get its owner to run out to pick up one of the rescuers, who was brought ashore unconscious and found also to have died.
Equipment used by the deceased was impounded by the Police as is normal in these situations. Much of it was rental gear owned by a local dive company but computers, GoPro cameras were personal have not yet been returned.
At inquest it was heard that both deceased had suffered immersion pulmonary oedemas. The expert medical witness told the inquest, would have suffered spontaneously, and her reduced oxygen intake would have explained her rapid breathing and erratic behaviour.
Before the inquest, the coroner heard that a secret inquiry into the accident was being conducted in Gozo and tried, without success, to obtain information about it, the surviving witnesses were not asked to attend the inquiry to give evidence
My arrest warrant outlined charge details claiming that I had failed in my duty to observe the group generally and to check weather conditions before the dive, which we did when we abandoned the first dive because of poor conditions and when we arrived and assessed the new dive site and sought local advice and observed numerous divers in the water
I was and have always been a conscientious buddy and was not the group’s leader, even though as an instructor I was one of the most qualified divers in the group.
Other allegations included that I should have given first aid to the deceased while she was still under water, which I reject as absurd and impractical, that the dive-profile of the divers who died showed “unorthodox” fast descent and ascent rates, which I maintain were necessary for an emergency rescue, and that I had failed to check for unknown equipment faults whatever that means, comprehensive buddy-checks were made pre-dive and that other checks thereafter are not normally made.
This case has been brought to the attention of my local MP, Sir Peter Bottomley. His Parliamentary assistant had told me that the MP had contacted the Maltese High Commission in London to express concern over what would seem an excessive reaction to the emergency that had enveloped the divers and resulted in a failed rescue, it would seem that anyone that attempts a rescue and fails could now face prosecution and prison if convicted
The Police have informed me to keep my phone on and to surrender myself to the Police once informed
Diver Magazine are reporting the case but Wendy Meadows the Chief Operating Office told me that the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) have instructed their magazine not to report this tragic incident in their SCUBA magazine or to help under their 3rd party insurance policy which comes as part of your membership, the article is also receiving a lot of media attention from the British Times and Telegraph newspapers and ITN
Steve Martin
D.O. BSAC 007