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CDNN :: Dead slow emergency response endangers Florida's Oriskany divers

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by CHRISSY LITTLEDALE

Scuba death
When Florida business promoters sank the USS Oriskany to boost tourism profits, they failed to establish adequate and effective emergency response procedures.

PENSACOLA, Florida (21 Mar 2007) -- The death of an Oriskany diver has raised concerns about safety measures and emergency response times for those diving the sunken carrier.

Lee Shortt, 39, of Pawley Island, S.C., died Saturday, just hours after diving the Oriskany. An autopsy is planned for today, said Dr. Andi Minyard, the medical examiner.

Coast Guard officials reported Shortt surfaced from the dive with symptoms of the bends, also known as decompression sickness.

A Coast Guard boat was launched to meet the local charter boat Shortt was on, but a helicopter was not sent. The closest Coast Guard rescue helicopter is in New Orleans, a 90-minute flight.

"That's where our helicopters come out of for our area of responsibility," said Lt. David Vicks, Mobile Command Center supervisor. "There are some (choppers) in Mobile, but they are used for training"...

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