Monday, February 25, 2008

Attack on Tiger Beach - Diver Dead

Editors Note 9.27.2008: Many emails have come in regarding this post and a few others that incorrectly suggest facts and site locations for the unfortunate shark attack on Mr.Groh this spring.

In defense of these posts we offer the following. This blog is a real time blog. As events happen, and stories unfold we post information as it happens. You will note the early posts regarding this event were dated almost to the hour of the day of the event.

These posts came from Coast Guard reports, first hand reports from vessels in the area listening in to radio traffic and no amount of general confusion from all media sources.

What is not in contention is the fact this attack (as we covered later) did not happen at Tiger Beach and did not involve a Tiger shark. What is also not in contention is the fact that Jimmy Abernathy himself did nothing to clarify the details of the attack, during the event, or after the event.

At no time did he or any representative of his operation come forth to the media or to other operations in the region to explain the attack, how it happened, where it happened, and what animal was involved. This lead to wild speculation by the media, and a general polarization of the shark diving industry in the region.

We maintain that industry leadership would dictate that Jimmy Abernathy would at some time and in some manner explain this event and to take responsibility away from the shark which quite naturally became the villain in this entirely sad affair. Today and after some 1500 media stories and blog posts later all we have are some grainy images and whispers of a story mainly from supporters of Jimmy Abernathy.

Our blog posts will remain as look at the unfolding of a commercial shark diving shark attack, how the media responded to it, how members of our shark diving community responded to it and the unfortunate aftermath.

Additionally a small group of Wetpixel friends have decided to make an issue of this blog and anyone who would speak out about this diver death. Sadly they have failed to realize how this tragic event has impacted the global shark diving industry and instead are clearly focused on reputation saving and smearing campaign.

Original Post:

A diver with Jimmy Abernathy's Dive Adventures in South Florida was bitten on Sunday by an alleged Bull Shark and then flown via Coast Guard helicopter to Florida.

Last year the Bahamas Dive Association sent a cease and desist to all shark diving operations on this site warning them to have shark cages on this dive site. It is unknown if Jimmy Abernathy had shark cages at this site at the time.

Diver Dead After Shark Attack

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) ― A diver bitten by a shark on Sunday has died from his injuries.

The Coast Guard said they dispatched a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Miami after receiving a mayday call from a crewmember aboard the Sheerwater, a commercial diving boat out of Riviera Beach, around 10 a.m.

The chopper located the dive boat about 50 miles east of Ft. Lauderdale and hoisted a 50-year old man onboard. It then airlifted him to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The boat's crew said the man was diving early in the morning when he was bitten by a shark. They were unable to tell what type of shark was involved; they said it swam off before they could make an identification.

Jimmy's last blog post from his website describing a Tiger Expedition last week reads:

"We also witnessed and photographed Don Kehoe loosing his Aquatica housing with two strobes and a Canon 5D to “Angel” (Tiger Grabbing his camera from his hands). Although we looked for the camera for two hours we had no luck. We have now renamed the special section of Tiger Beach “Kehoe’s Canon Reef”. The camera is insured by DAN which is a very reputable equipment insurance company and hopefully they will take care of this for him. He was very upset to say the least, but also very happy that the shark didn’t get his hand. If you haven’t already insured your camera before the trip, please do so now. You never know what may happen."


Anonymous said...

Chumming or feeding of any kind is unethical in diving. It creates an artificial situation for the animals, often creates a dependency on the feeding, and usually fouls the waters.

At Los Arcos (a Mexican Nature Preserve by Puerto Vallarta) the waters are so fouled by the constant chumming of the dive operators that there's nothing left to see. So their response? Throw even more chum in the water!

I know a diver who was attacked by a wolf eel at a site that routinely fed the wolf eels. This dive was later in the day than usual, and the wolf eel was impatient to get his regularly-scheduled meal, so he bit at the diver. That is not typical behavior of wolf eels, and demonstrates the stupidity of feeding and chumming on dives.

If you know of a dive operator who chums, express your concerns and displeasure about it; tell them you're going elsewhere because of that reason. If you see an ad in a dive magazine that mentions chumming, express your displeasure to both the magazine and the operator who placed the ad.

This is the Year of the Reef. It's time to end these foolish practices of chumming and feeding during dives; they only do more harm than good.

BTW, the man who died from the shark attack was a lawyer; I hope the dive operation gets sued into bankruptcy. (And yes, it is 100% their fault; new divers trust that the dive operations and dive instructors have their safety in mind, and both operators and instructors realize they are liable when they breach that safety.)

Anonymous said...

This whole thing reminds me of the idiot in Alaska who felt it was proper for some unknown reason to put his leg over the railing and into the cage containing a polar bear. When you screw around with Mother Nature's critters, especially ones who are carnivores, what do you expect, benign behavior?

And now sue somebody because you chose to participate/engage in behavior that knowingly provokes an animal/creature to want to feed? Please...get a grip here!!! I don't get wound around the handle about much, but the liberal "sue them" attitude in this country (the USA) is going to be the death of us. (If you want to see the effect of this...ask scuba instructors how much they pay a year in insurance coverage, and believe me, it pales in comparison to medical malpractice insurance).

I do NOT agree with chumming to get sharks around. If you want to see them, dive enough in the right parts of the world and you will see them. To me when you chum sharks and then get in the have just raised the percentage of a bite/accident WAY above the norm. You want to do that...fine...have at it...but don't jump on the "sue em" bandwagon when it goes wrong for you.

My condolences to the diver's family and friends...for they have suffered a loss. My condolences to the sharks as well...for now you will bear a higher banner of being a species that preys on humans without exception in the mind of a lot of people who simply don't know any better.

Anonymous said...

Dive operators and instructors are--and should be--held to a higher standard of accountability.

What do you think the dive operation told the divers?
--Hell, yes, you could be attacked; that's what makes the dive exciting!
--Of course you're safe; we've done this numerous times and no one has ever been attacked.
--We're creating a situation that knowingly makes sharks aggressive; if you're stupid enough to jump in the water without protection, that's your problem, not ours.

In none of those situations would the operation have acted in a reasonable and prudent manner.

Yes, divers bear ultimate responsibility for their own safety, but in this case the diver was not acting irresponsibly (e.g. by not monitoring his air or by not maintaining his gear).

The very fact that a dive operation offered this type of dive implies that it is safe for divers who act reasonably under water. It's no different than getting an air fill and expecting it to contain no carbon monoxide, or renting gear and expecting it to fuction properly. If a person does happen to get a bad air fill, or have a gross malfunction of rented gear that causes their death, the diver is not responsible--it is the air filler or rental place that is 100% responsible.

Now, if this were a case of some divers who went out on a fishing boat, chummed the water for sharks, and then jumped in, it would be 100% their own fault; no one would expect a fisherman to know how to adequately ensure the safety of divers. Dive operations, however, are expected to adequately ensure the safety of the divers they bring out.

As another example, consider boarding a plane during bad weather. You expect the pilot to have your safety in mind and not take off if it's dangerous to do so. If he does take off in dangerous conditions and the plane crashes because of that, it's the pilot's and airline's fault; the passengers can't be held responsible because they should never have boarded a plane that might have taken off in dangerous conditions.

Passengers have a reasonable expectation that an operation (diving or airline) has their well-being in mind.

In the end, though, I hope this tragedy at least helps divers better understand how foolish it is to use operations that chum the water (whether sharks are present or not); they're more interested in taking your money than keeping you safe or offering you an authentic dive experience.

Anonymous said...

I almost got to do that with blacktip and grey reef sharks, which are both less dangerous, but the water was too choppy so one of the guys let me chum the water from the boat while the rest of our tour was being sick. Which was awesome in its own right.

However, tiger sharks are another story. That's just stupid. Those guys are actually known to attack humans.

Anonymous said...

Are you effin' kidding me? Really?

I feel absolutely NO sympathy for idiots like this that think so highly of the human race that they fail to remember that we are NOT the highest on the food chain.

I understand the curiosity and the awe at being that close to such an amazing creature but geezus.....

I truly hope that he did not procreate and nature is doing what it does best by weeding out the lesser thans.

Anonymous said...

I almost got to do that with blacktip and grey reef sharks, which are both less dangerous, but the water was too choppy so one of the guys let me chum the water from the boat while the rest of our tour was being sick. Which was awesome in its own right.

However, tiger sharks are another story. That's just stupid. Those guys are actually known to attack humans.