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SCUBA DIVING :: FORUMS :: EDITORIALS :: WAVE DANCER

 

As always, the family members are the last to know...

Teresa Mars - Wife of Wave Dancer victim Ray Mars
September 24, 2003 at 23:11:26

I want to verify all the statements made by Heather Johnston.

No family members were contacted by anyone, least of all the members of the Richmond Dive Club who gave interviews for the article "In Harm's Way". One would think that that would only be simple human kindness, or politeness, or something like that, but they did not see fit to even let any of us know that such an article was to be written.

I had begged Dave DeBarger and Rick Patterson for months following the tragedy of October 8, 2001, for any and all information they could give me regarding the last minutes of the Wave Dancer.  I was desperate to find out what had really happened to my husband, Ray Mars. Originally, they promised to help me discover why this tragedy had occurred, but shortly after my husband's funeral, they both stopped speaking to me, or corresponding with me, and indeed had their attorney send a threatening letter to me, our son, and some other family members who were asking them to help us, never to contact their clients again.

They knew how painful this whole horrific tragedy was for all of us, yet refused to give any information, bad though it may have been, in a quiet, private way, to let us begin to cope with the truth.  Instead, we had to discover the horror, terror, and pain of our loved ones last moments through an impersonal magazine article. The only thing that accomplished was to intensify the pain of the truth.

I would not even had known about the article if someone from RDC had not contacted me to let me know. As it was, I found out late one evening, and had to wait till the next morning to go and buy the magazine.  I was forced to read the horrific details, indeed, the most graphic, intimate details, alone in my car. This was just a few days before what was to have been our 35th wedding anniversary.

Needless to say, that day was made infinitely more painful by the complete disregard for our feelings, displayed by the surviving members of the RDC. The Tara Williamson quote at the end of the article felt like a knife in my heart. She said that with a little more care and caution on the part of the boat passengers, none of this would have happened. She might just as well have said, Ray was careless, and just dared his life away, with no thought of his wife or son. 

So are we to believe it's his own fault he's dead? Nothing could be further from the truth. When was the last time any of these people (the survivors) instructed the pilot of a plane when and how much to de-ice in bad weather?  When was the last time they made their own diagnoses at the doctor's office, or instructed the pharmacist what to fill their prescriptions with?  All of these things make just as much sense, that is, not at all, as forecasting the weather, and making all the plans for safety and shelter, when necessary.

Besides, the victims could not even have have the chance to help determine their own fate, because they did not know the truth about what was heading their way.  The only people who knew that were Peter Hughes and Philip Martin.  They chose to directly lie to the passengers, tell them they would be perfectly safe in a place where they had ridden out hurricanes before, etc.  And, they would be so much more comfortable on the boat, instead of a shelter. 

Of course, the poor victims didn't even know a shelter was available.  I know these facts to be true, because Ray himself called me from the Wave Dancer the morning of October 8, and said they had been assured that all would be fine.  I, like Heather Johnston, do not truly believe that he was entirely comfortable with that idea, because his voice sounded very strange to me, kind of shaky. However, what I do believe is that the victims were told that they were not getting off the boat, there was no place to go, so no choices could even be made by them. Ray told me that they could not get off the boat.  I did not ask him why, but there can be only one explanation, the captain had told them there was no other option.

I also can identify with Heather's knowledge of her father's ability to utilize a primitive but relatively safe concrete shelter, and any conditions associated with that. Ray was always prepared for any eventuality (that is, unless he had been directly lied to, and did not expect a problem at all).  He spent over 29 years working for the FDA, and he devoted his whole career to consumer safety and regulations. He was a big believer in playing by the book, obeying the rules, etc.  He was never one to let any infraction slide, so it is especially horrific that someone else's complete negligence, especially since it was so deliberate, lead to his death.

Just to tell a couple of things that prove he was always ready for anything, when we lived in California, he prepared an earthquake kit for each of our cars, had detailed plans for us to get in touch with each other, etc. The earthquake kit had, among many other things, heavy walking shoes, in case the freeways were destroyed and we had to walk over rubble to get home, and a fully stocked first aid kit. He had special wrenches in the house to turn off the gas from the source, in case of broken lines. 

The other incident that held eerie forcasting of the future is that we were in the Turks and Caicos Islands for our 30th wedding anniversary, in August, 1998, when Hurricane Bonnie was in the vicinity.  The whole island was under extreme preparation, and the first thing Ray did was to locate the shelter, and find out how we could get there if necessary. He made sure to tell me that there might very well be no water or power, which he knew I would not be happy about, but insisted that the shelter was the place to be if evacuation was recommended.

Also, all the smaller boats were pulled completely out of the water, and the larger ones were tied up in the harbor, apparently correctly, unlike the Wave Dancer, to withstand the winds and surge of the possible hurricane. As it turns out, Bonnie did not come very close to where we were, but nevertheless, the whole island was pretty much shut down, and no boats went out from Friday morning till Wednesday morning.  Ray was a bit disappointed to miss some dives, but thoroughly understood the reason for the precautions, and knew that nothing was worth the risk he would eventually be forced to take aboard Wave Dancer. Neither of us could have believed at that time that any dive operation, or boat captain, would actually keep passengers aboard in a Category 4 hurricane, with absolutely no safety preparations at all.  That is, no life jackets, no gathering on a safe deck, no nothing.

During the long, horrible day waiting for the final notification of Ray's fate, 14 hours after hearing of the capsizing, all of our friends and family tried to comfort me with their absolute certainty that Ray would have survived, because he could always be counted on to be ready. Unfortunately, he didn't even know that there was anything to be ready for, because Captain Philip Martin had directly lied to all of the passengers, withholding the knowledge of the severity of the storm.

There is one more item that I found really disturbing in the article, and that is the Dave DeBarger quote about "crying" at every funeral.  Does he really think anyone cares?  That doesn't help very much, after the fact, does it, Dave? It only makes him sound like a self-important ass, who truly thinks he is the real victim in all of this, so traumatized, etc. 

Besides, he didn't do any crying at the Memorial Service in November of 2001, in Richmond, for all of the victims.  He was too busy elbowing Mary Lou Hayden, Mike Carr, and Rick Patterson, and snickering.  I saw this for myself, as did my friend Roberta who accompanied me on that awful day, because they were sitting directly accross from us in another pew in the church. And let us never forget DeBarger's jovial words, at what should have been an extremely solemn occasion, "Let's Go Diving!" 

That still shocks me to the core to this day, that anyone could make such light of such a painful day for all the family members.  To me, it truly defines the new Richmond Dive Club, under the leadership of Dave DeBarger. That would never have happened had the people who were killed still been in charge, and members of the club.  They were mature, caring adults, who would have never hurt the grieving family members the way the survivors have, both on the day of the Memorial Service, and now, with this article.

Action Divers

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