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Why were Sea Dancer crew shark feeding?  Answer: To attract sharks...

Teresa Mars  - Widow of Wave Dancer Victim Ray Mars
May 26, 2003 at 14:47:20

First of all, I DO know the difference between feeding and chumming. I have been on enough diving and fishing trips with my husband to know quite well what I'm talking about.

The incident I observed directly on the Sea Dancer in Turks and Caicos off French Key in October, 2000, was not done between dives, as suggested by Mr. Elkins, to see fish swimming around for "scraps".  It was done intentionally by the cook on board the Sea Dancer, Stanley, directly before the afternoon dive, while the divers were doing their final preparation to enter the water.  It was done intentionally to attract sharks, and it was very effective. I stood right next to him as he did it.

This was almost exactly one year before my husband was killed on the Wave Dancer, and many of the divers on that trip were also killed on the Wave Dancer. One of the survivors, Rick Patterson, was also on both trips. He came to my husband's wake here in Maryland, crying all evening, vowing to get to the bottom of what had killed so many of his friends.

He said that he had a set of pictures of the Wave Dancer both before and after the capsizing, especially showing the snapped lines (due to incorrect mooring of the Wave Dancer), and the part of the ship that came off, due to missing bolts. One of the lines was running from that part of the ship to the dock, so when it broke away, and the other lines snapped because they were tied too tight, the Wave Dancer capsized.

Another factor contributing to the capsizing was the fact that several large items in the engine room and laundry room were not secured in any way, thus shifting when the boat began drifting away from the dock, when the swells hit and snapped the lines. 

Another issue is the fact that the Wave Dancer was the last boat to go to Big Creek, and there was not enough space for her to be properly moored, thus leaving a large portion sticking out past the end of the wharf. The Wave Dancer was the last boat to return to port, and did so only after military authorities sent a helicopter out to the Wave Dancer trailing a banner that read "Return to port at once".  That was necessary because all the radios on board had been turned off, or otherwise made inoperable.

The captain of the Wave Dancer, Phillip Martin, was communicating only with Peter Hughes in his Miami office, directly from the wheelhouse.  The passengers were never made aware of the severity of the storm, nor were they prepared in any way, not even the issuing of life jackets.

Returning to port would actually mean Belize City, the port of departure, but Peter Hughes and Phillip Martin decided to go to Big Creek instead. Big Creek and Placencia took the full brunt of Hurricane Iris, and Belize City was mostly untouched.  Every possible decision that was made was the wrong one, all resulting in the totally unnecessary drowning deaths of 20 people.  An independent marine engineer and his team made a thorough investigation of the Wave Dancer shortly after the capsizing. Peter Hughes has dismissed this report, saying that he is sure that the man was paid for his report.  The International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize, IMMARBE, was to release an official investigation in January, 2002.  That is the report that Scott Kelley is refering to.  To this day, we are still waiting for the report.

Back to the subject of the survivors, Rick Patterson, Dave DeBarger, and MaryLou Hayden.  Mr. Patterson suddenly stopped talking to me completely a couple of weeks after my husband's funeral.  I begged him for information on what actually had happened, since he was there, and had promised it to me. His attorney wrote to me, threatening me and members of my family if we ever contacted Mr. Patterson again.

All I ever wanted from anyone is the facts about how this horrible tragedy had happened. Mr. Patterson accused me of blaming him for surviving a tragedy that killed my husband.  At Ray's wake, I specifically told Mr. Patterson that I did not blame him in any way for surviving, and he knows that this is a true statement. So, I have been unable to get any help from the Richmond Dive Club, or authorities in Belize, for answers.

And let us not forget Captain Phillip Martin.  When Wave Dancer finally got to Big Creek, some of the Belizean crew members asked him if they could get off the boat and go to their homes. He refused, saying that they would lose their jobs if they left. One cook did anyway, and she is alive today.

Another one did not, even after her family begged her to, because she was afraid of losing a job she needed. She died, along with my husband.

But Captain Martin and his second captain were in a life boat and survived while the passengers were abandoned to drown in the dining salon.  I've always thought that tradition dictates that the captain is the last one off the ship, but apparently that only is true for people of integrity, ethics, and morals. 

I am frequently asked how I think Mr Hughes and his captain can sleep at night.  My answer is that without a conscience, they probably sleep quite well.

Unfortunately, the families of the dead do not enjoy that same care-free state mind.

Action Divers

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