Wave Dancer, tsunami and comparison...
Lee Chamberlain - Rescue Diver/Environmental Sciences
February 3, 2005 at 20:40:33
First of all I do not know Mrs. Mars, but unlike some whom have criticism of the victims and their "choice" which to my way of thinking clouds the issues. I do not know Ian either, not going to state anything but fact. Comparisons of grief endured and choices is irrelevant. What the relevant issue is that people died and it appears that some profited at the pain and sorrow of families.
In my research of the "Wave Dancer" incident, I looked beyond CDNN, the Richmond Times Dispatch and Channel 5 and others. I found an obscure website that detailed a cruise on the boat in question and found it lacked both in Skippering and in maintainence. Being a sailor with some 30 years experience and a diver for almost as many, both recreationally and in my vocation, customers cannot overide a commanders decisions, no more than a marine in the field.
The bottom line is that there are relevant issues of judgment on the part of the dive operation as to 1) the fitness of the boat to begin with, 2) the ability of the captain to make a call. As to shelter, when my boat is out she is my responsibility, mine alone. It is not unusual to weigh anchor and head to shore, and there were decisions made concerning the operation both from the management and from the boat's command structure.
Bottom line, weather faxes, communications and calls were made. In one of the articles there is mention of radios being turned off and decisions to hold passengers in a category four hurricane. Logic: Severe storm get back to port. The storm did not turn--read the stats at NOAA. The Capital City was available, a captain in the final analysis never hazards his boat, always seeks shelter, well that responsibility begins with setting lines, evacuation of passenger and crews to shore and inland. The loss of any life, whether we like them or not, whether they are rich or poor is to us all a loss, divers or tourists.
In the case of the Tsunami there was no warning, in the case of Hurricane Iris there were warnings and it is up to each of us to decide whether we want to believe that someone put the command of his craft to a democratic process or was instructed to hold the passengers on board. No skipper allows his charge to remain at risk, no skipper would put a guest or crewman in peril knowingly. The 20 divers who died from Richmond Virginia and Baltimore were people and divers.
In a dive we calculate depth and bottom time, a command desion is never a vote, its a responsibility. The obligation of an operator is the safety of passenger over profit. The questions that arise from reports of cell phone calls and the subsequent revelations about the operations bear a lot of thought. The Bottom line is that the people who died then and now were in fact human beings and conscience demands we remember that and do whatever it takes to insure that never happens again.
For the Wave Dancer the responsibility is one that should be examined and direct actions taken. Cheryl Lightbound was one of those divers, so were the Johnsons, and others. The horror of survival is one thing, the pain of living with loss is something we all live with each day of our lives. The courts someday may ask the right questions, the right course might be taken. But I no more believe that advance notice was not available to the Command of that boat than I would believe I can pick up my own house. Responsible Command is not easy, but there is a lack in the facts that are available to us all that will show there was more wrong than just a little wrong.
To Mrs. Mars, and the others you have our profound sympathy as do the families of the victims of the tsunami. As divers we should expect answers to those we entrust with our lives and those of our families. I believe Ms. Luk and the reports of the calls, as I believe that had someone tried more to think of their charge as opposed to that one more day of operating costs. I am certain that had someone looked at the approaching hurricane and subsequent events there may be 20 more of us to offer condolences.
It is not my intent to create animosity, but I think the time has come for each of us to demand answers other than to hear canned spin about the decision being placed in a vote. Such is not command--its ineptitude.