"In Harm's Way"...
Heather Johnston - Daughter of Wave Dancer victims Byron and Shirley Johnston
September 23, 2003 at 22:16:39
I'm sure you'll enjoy reading "In Harm's Way" Dale, as it places blame equally with the Captain and the victims themselves. I would like to point out that none of the 17 deceased members of the Richmond Dive club or their families or Tom Stark were contacted for the article.
I am horrified by some of the statements and actions of the living Richmond Dive Club members aboard the Aggressor. The National Geographic article attempts to extrapolate their mood to those on board the Wave Dancer. My parents were 58 and 60, and I cannot imagine them having a "hurricane party."
My father was a former Smoke Jumper. He was not afraid of the "Third World" the outdoors, or a cold hard night in a concrete building. He knew quite well how to grab some iodine from the first aid kit and run for his life, if necessary. He was worried about the hurricane before he even left Richmond and he looks extremely unhappy to me (top center) in the photo published in National Geographic Adventure. We will never know what the dead thought or knew, but I think it is unfair to draw conclusions about their behavior and thought-processes based on those of the living members of the Richmond Dive Club aboard the Agressor.
According to survivor Dave DeBarger, the last my parents heard before they died was that the hurricane was scheduled to hit 50 miles north of their location. No passengers aboard the Wave Dancer were ever informed of any evacuation order, available transportation off the boat, or any offer of concrete shelter.
Go ahead, blame the dead for not pressing the captain for more current or accurate information. According to Tom Stark in his CDNN interview, the radios aboard Wave Dancer were "broken." According to Dave DeBarger the passengers were repeatedly lied to by their captain, or at best given 12 hour old faxes describing the "current" weather conditions. They made the best decisions they could have made with the information available to them at the time.
The boat docked at 3:30pm and the hurricane hit at 8:30pm. Time yes, they had time to decide what to do. Time, however, is little use without any information on where to go, or what was about to hit them.