DOOM: Hawaiian Disaster

I remember reading about this story but this is the only trace of it I could find on the web, a comment on a more recent story about a Florida dive company who neglected to pick up a diver.

As in the other Doom posts, imagine the point at which the realization set in that …this was it. This was the end of the line.

“There was a longtime guy on Oahu who left a certified Japanese tourist underwater off Waikiki even with her sister telling the crew that she was still in the water. The company, Atlantis Reef Divers, paid a pretty nice chunk of money to the family in Japan and this was the death knell for the Atlantis Submarine dive operations, although nothing happened until the case was settled. He trusted his DM’s to tell him that all were back onboard, something I never did.
The captain’s license was suspended for six months. Plus he pretty much became unemployable for any reputable outfit in Hawaii. It worked like that for dive staff who killed a customer. The person was kept on the company payroll going their regular job for as long as it took to settle the case – in this case, almost two years. Approximately ten seconds after the final signature, the person was fired and out the door. And he was surprised!
All the years that I drove dive boats, we didn’t leave the mooring until I was personally happy that everyone was back onboard. No reading a roll call – I physically counted every paying SOB (hey, that’s Soul On Board) and making sure every tank was back in its spot. The DM’s cooperated since they didn’t want an irate captain in their face after the dive.
And I drove some packed cattleboats.”

Here’s some more information:

” Dive boat captain accused of negligence
The Coast Guard said his actions resulted in the drowning of a diver
By Jim Witty

THE U.S. Coast Guard has charged a Waikiki dive boat captain with negligence in the Aug. 14 drowning of a novice scuba diver.

Captain Robert Thomas Yoho Jr. failed to ensure that all passengers were on board his Atlantis Reef Divers vessel before leaving a dive site off Fort DeRussy beach, said Capt. Frank Whipple, commander of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

Yoho, who has held an ocean operator’s license since 1983, is to appear before an administrative judge Jan. 13. The judge can suspend or revoke his license, place him on probation or dismiss the case. Whipple stressed the negligence charge is not a criminal or civil action.

“He’s required by the regulations to account for people when they get on the boat and when they leave the boat,” Whipple said. “He went out with X number of people; he came back with X minus one. I don’t need much evidence to show that.”

Akemi Hoshino, 24, of Saitama, Japan, drowned after participating in an introductory scuba dive session about 200 yards off shore.

Police said she was dropped off in the ocean about 9:40 a.m. and was discovered missing after the boat returned to the pier about an hour later. A diver from another commercial company pulled Hoshino’s body to the surface.

Atlantis spokesman Terry O’Halloran has said the two instructors assigned to the eight novice divers accounted for all the divers before heading back in.

Neither O’Halloran or Whipple would comment on the continuing Coast Guard investigation.

Whipple said the investigation could take months to complete. The Coast Guard is waiting to interview witnesses, some of whom have returned to Japan, and for a determination from the coroner’s office, Whipple said.

Meanwhile, Atlantis Reef Divers has suspended its scuba diving operation indefinitely, O’Halloran said.

Whipple said the Hawaii Coast Guard initiated 25 negligence, misconduct or law violation cases last year.

“(But) this is a high profile case,” he said. “It affects the economic climate in Hawaii.”

But Hawaii Visitors Bureau spokesman David McNeil claimed that the deaths of Hoshino and the drowning of 54-year-old Tomoko Yanase while on an Atlantis Reef Divers expedition off Waikiki last April were isolated incidents.

“We don’t anticipate it to affect visitor numbers,” O’Neil said. “The circumstances surrounding (the) tragic incident remain unclear. However, it does provide the impetus to review the safety procedures of the dive industry.”

O’Halloran said the company is focusing on “prevention” and will concentrate on “examining how water recreation safety can be improved.”

Whipple said the Marine Safety Office employs a staff of 60 whose job is to “prevent casualties.”

O’Halloran said his company is cooperating fully with the Coast Guard.

“Any information we get, they have,” he said. “We want answers too.””

And more:

“Hawaii’s Dangerous Dives
Tourist’s death raises safety concerns
from the May, 1997 issue of Undercurrent  
The April issue of Conde Nast Traveler contained an important piece on Hawaii diving by writer Alex Salkever. We are reprinting it here with their permission.
Scuba Diving Operations in Hawaii are scurrying to repair their reputations, which were damaged by the death last August of a novice diver who was inexplicably left behind by her dive boat.
Fatalities are rare, but this case has the Coast Guard and local dive operators calling for changes in the way divers, especially novices, are supervised. It has also underscored that the dive industry is largely self-regulating.
Diving regulations are, for the most part, self-enforced; certification agencies such as PADI and NAUI have no police arm. The Coast Guard has no jurisdiction over dive shops or boats. And in an industry notorious for low profit margins and salaries, instructors and boat captains are often afraid of blowing the whistle on hazardous operators. “It could cost someone his job,” one instructor told us, “and Hawaii is a very small place.”
The number of recreational diving fatalities in Hawaii is small — there were 11 last year — considering the thousands of dives that take place in the state annually. But it can be difficult for a visitor to determine how safe a particular operator is since there are no statistics on near misses or minor injuries, and a company with a poor record can easily change names and reopen.
Akemi Hoshino apparently picked the wrong operator. On August 14, 1996, Hoshino, a Japanese tourist, drowned in the waters off Waikiki after her dive boat returned to shore without her. According to Atlantis Reef Divers, the company operating the tour, all divers were believed accounted for, but somehow Hoshino did not return to the boat.
Officials with Atlantis, which has ceased operations, claim that their instructors were experienced and that every precaution was taken. They could not explain, however, why Hoshino was left behind.
A Coast Guard report placed considerable blame on the company and cited “lack of care of dive instructors [and] vessel crew” as the apparent cause. It also noted that the tight timetable of Atlantis’s dive expeditions pressured the crew to return to shore as quickly as possible. In the report, the captain of the dive boat, Robert Thomas Yoho, Jr., described the schedule as “fast and furious.” On the day of the accident, the boat was almost 30 minutes behind.
Such time pressures, however, are not unusual on what dive instructors call “cattleboats,” large operations like Atlantis that, they say, emphasize numbers over safety.
Hoshino’s group was on a “Discovery Scuba Dive,” a PADIdesigned program for people with little or no experience. Participants are given brief instructions on dive procedures and safety, then take a first dive, usually in shallow waters, in the company of a dive instructor. Most dive associations sponsor “resort programs” because they are often marketed to vacationers with limited time.
According to the Coast Guard, however, such brief training carries inherent dangers. Instructors are unable to fully determine a diver’s swimming ability, physical condition, and mental soundness. Moreover, cultural and language barriers can be a problem, as Hoshino’s death tragically proved.
According to the report, one of the Atlantis instructors professed to speak Japanese, but Japanese patrons on the tour had difficulty communicating with him. Hoshino’s sister, who was also on the boat, tried to tell the crew that her sister was missing as they returned to shore, but she was unable to make herself understood.
In the wake of the accident, Hawaii dive instructors have expressed unease with PADI’s maximum of six introductory divers per instructor, saying they would prefer a ratio of two to one. Lieutenant Scott Stewart, the Coast Guard’s chief investigating officer on the case, said an instructor told him, “I don’t want any more divers than I have hands.”
PADI defends its program, pointing out that this has been its only fatality since it was introduced in 1992. Over 65,000 divers have taken the course. The Coast Guard has charged Yoho with negligence and asked PADI to stringently review the case and take appropriate action against instructors and crew. In addition, it has asked the Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii, a local industry group, to review issues of dive safety in Hawaii. Says Stewart, “If an operation is run like [Atlantis was], there is a definite potential that similar accidents will occur.”
Courtesy of Condé Traveler. Copyright © 1997 by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.”

And more:


A charge of negligence has been levied against the captain of a Atlantis tour
boat, after a Japanese tourist lost her life during a routine beginners’ dive
off Waikiki. Coast Guard officials say Atlantis boat captain Robert Yoho Jr.
failed to notice that one of his passengers was missing. “It’s relatively
clear,” said Coast Guard spokesman Frank Whipple. “X number of people went
out on the boat, X minus one number of people came back on the boat.”
Although the head-count error might have been made by the instructors on the
dive, Whipple said, it was Yoho’s responsibility to verify them. One week
ago, divers from another tour company pulled an unconscious 24-year-old Akemi
Hoshino from about 30 feet of water. Lifeguards were unsuccessful in attempts
to resuscitate her, later discovering that she had been underwater for over
an hour before being brought to shore. A hearing is scheduled for January,
and Yoho may be stripped of his captain’s license and face the end of his 13-
year career. “I find this to be a very difficult decision to make, because
it’s an accident,” Whipple said, adding that the Coast Guard’s authority in
the case stops at examining Yoho’s involvement. Although it is unclear
whether Atlantis will face inquiries by other authorities, the incident has
prompted the company to shut its doors indefinitely. Company spokesman Terry
O’Halloran said Atlantis’ 12 employees now find their jobs in limbo. “They’re
all just waiting like we all are,” O’Halloran said. The company has expressed
its regrets to Hoshino’s family. State investigators, meanwhile, have not yet
determined the exact reason behind Hoshino’s drowning, whether it was due to
an injury, a case of the bends or getting caught on some rocks.”

And more:

“ATLANTIS Reef Divers announced today that it is shutting its doors
permanently. The dive company’s tour operation has been suspended since Aug.
14 when a Japanese tourist died while on one of its introductory dives.
Investigators say it took Atlantis staff nearly an hour to realize that 24-
year-old Akemi Hoshino was missing. She was pulled from waters off the Hilton
Hawaiian Village an hour later. Atlantis Spokesman Terry O’Halloran said
Hoshino’s death wasn’t the only reason behind the closure, saying dive tours
no longer fit the company’s overall plan. Tour employees are going to be
given positions elsewhere within the company, O’Halloran added…”


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