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Five People Die During Florida's
Spiny Lobster Mini-Season

August 4, 2006

Five people died and several others suffered injuries – some severe – during the just-completed mini-season for spiny lobster hunters.

Those sobering statistics raise eyebrows and serve as a wake-up call for people during regular spiny lobster season, which begins Aug. 6. Not all the deaths are directly attributable to diving. But all the victims were preparing to dive or actively diving for the crustacean when they died or were injured.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages divers to take extra care during the upcoming regular lobster season. Many times, FWC officers were first on the scene to assist in search and rescue operations, even though they didn’t investigate the incident unless it was related directly to a boating accident. Diving accident investigations typically are completed by the local sheriff’s office or the Coast Guard, depending on the location.

FWC Officer Robert Dube, a certified diver, has suggestions on how to stay safe while diving.

“Pay attention, be alert to your surroundings, properly display a diver-down flag and file a float plan,” Dube said.

Since most divers will be using boats, FWC reminds boaters always know what is going on around your boat and “develop a life jacket habit.”

No one should drink and then attempt to drive a boat or dive, anyone diving should be certified, and everyone should dive with a buddy.

“Never lose visual contact with your dive buddy,” Dube said.

One diver – who was not certified to dive – was found dead with an empty air tank in about 15 feet of water. He became separated from his dive buddy and had removed all of his equipment – except his weight belt.

“If you get into trouble while diving, no matter the reason, the first thing you should do is discard your weight belt,” Dube said. “Don’t dive beyond your personal capabilities. Plan your dive and dive your plan.”

Before leaving the dock, always check the weather and sea conditions. Also, he said, make sure all dive equipment has been checked and maintained.

Some of the deaths occurred because of medical conditions.

“People need to remember, a diver must be in good health or he could encounter problems in the water,” he said.

“Remember, don’t let a bad decision ruin a great day on the water,” Dube said.

Statistics from Monroe and Miami-Dade counties show FWC officers were busy during the two-day mini-season.

They completed 3,083 vessel inspections, checked 10,610 users, issued 101 citations, arrested two intoxicated boat operators, and issued 145 resource citations and more than 700 other types of citations or warnings.

The officers spent 1,036 hours on the water patrolling for resource violations and 954 hours were spent on boating safety enforcement.

They investigated 12 boating accidents resulting in injuries to five people, at least one who was critically injured when a propeller sliced into his thigh and severed an artery.

They were involved in 20 search-and-rescue missions and logged 17 air patrol hours.

 

 
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