Stranded Divers Rescued Off Key Biscayne
MIAMI (CBS4) – It is a scuba diver’s nightmare and one that was portrayed in the disturbing film “Open Water.”
In that film, the two divers who were abandoned at sea by their charter boat did not survive.
In the latest case here in South Florida, two divers from two countries who also became separated from their charter boat last Sunday are speaking about their ordeal and are admitting that they also could not help but think about what happened in “Open Water.”
“Now I’m not going to see that movie,” said 43-year-old Fernando Garcia Puerta, a tourist from Madrid, Spain who was one of 25 scuba divers aboard the charter boat when he and fellow diver, 44-year-old Paul Kline of Austin, Texas were fighting for their lives.
Kline said he paid $85 for the four-hour trip which involved two one-hour dives. It was on the second dive when they got into trouble. When they surfaced, they were all alone.
“We came up and there was nothing there,” said Kline, who is a Director of a Hospitality company and who was in South Florida for a hospitality convention at a Sunny Isles beach Hotel.
“I was sort of in disbelief at first,” Kline told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
When asked by D’Oench if he was scared, Kline said, “I was a little concerned at first. You try to think about what is happening and my first thought was that someone will realize that you were missing. We talked about kids and our families and realized we would have quite a story to tell our kids.”
Kline, who is married with six children, said “I was pretty determined that this was not going to be my last day. I always think through a plan and we found a buoy that was anchored and we hung on to that and that way we couldn’t drift. We didn’t panic. That is the worst thing you can do. Once panic sets in, all sorts of bad things happen.”
Garcia Puerta told D’Oench that, “When I was in the water, I thought I don’t want to die. That’s the first thing you think about and you hope that somebody will realize what’s going on and will rescue us. You think about your wife and your children.”
After two hours, the two men were spotted by a passenger on board the Miami-Beach based yacht, “No Compromise,” an 80-foot Sunseeker yacht that was headed back to Miami Beach from Key Largo.
“At first I thought they were Cubans adrift at sea or two divers who got separated from a boat that got loose,” said Eli Trichet, the Captain of “No Compromise.”
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel great. I am very happy they are alive today.”
CBS4 was with Trichet when a grateful Garcia Puerta gave him two bouquets of red roses.
“Great, great,” said Garcia Puerta. “I have no words for this.”
“We are very, very appreciative,” said Kline. “When we were found it was 6:40 at night. That was the last opportunity because by the time we got to the dock, it was dark. Had they not found us, we would have been there all night.”
Kline said he was on a dive boat from R.J. Diving Ventures of 300 Alton Road on Miami Beach.
Kline said Captain Mike Beach apologized to him, saying somehow he missed the names of Kline and Garcia Puerta when he checked the log before leaving with the other divers.
Beach did not return telephone calls from D’Oench but he did tell CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald that, “Everybody is OK, no one is hurt. Everybody is happy.”
CBS4 was with Garcia Puerta when he visited South Beach Divers of 850 Washington Avenue. Garcia Puerta and Kline had booked their scuba dives through that company. Its owner, Sasha Boulanger, told D’Oench that he had “no comment” but he did say that Garcia Puerta was given a refund.
Boulanger told the paper that his company has an excellent record and the incident is the fault of the boat operator. “This falls on (RJ Diving’s) back,” he told the newspaper. “They are in control of the divers and their security.”
“They made a mistake,” Garcia Puerta said of RJ Diving Ventures. “Anybody can do it. And they did apologize.”
“I spoke to the boat captain and he apologized to me and I believe he was sincere,” said Kline. “But I don’t know how this could have happened. There are very specific procedures to follow when on board. I’m happy that we are still alive but that may not have happened and that stays with me.”
Kline returned to Austin on Tuesday and told D’Oench that he would have quite a story to tell his children. He told D’Oench that he has been on some 70 dives and nothing like this has ever happened to him before. Without question, he said, this was his most memorable dive.
The Coast Guard is investigating this incident.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)