Vis­it­ing diver ran out of air, van­ished

‘Hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dent’ at Race Rocks

Times Colonist - - Front Page - KATIE DeROSA [email protected]­colonist.com

Ti­mothy Chu, div­ing at Race Rocks, ran out of air and tried but failed to latch onto his dive master’s sec­ondary air source. The two then drifted apart and Chu dis­ap­peared.

Chu, a 27-year-old Bri­tish po­lice of­fi­cer who was vis­it­ing Victoria, was on a recre­ational dive on July 5, 2015, at the marine eco­log­i­cal re­serve near Juan de Fuca Strait.

Erin Bradley, owner of the Og­den Point Dive Cen­tre, which or­ga­nized the dive, has pro­vided this ac­count of what hap­pened to Chu, of­fer­ing the de­tails pub­licly for the first time. “He ran out of air as they were mak­ing their way back to the sur­face,” Bradley said.

With­out air, Chu was un­able to gain buoy­ancy to float to the sur­face. Chu swam over to share air from the dive master’s sec­ondary air source. It’s not clear why Chu ran out of air.

“When he ap­proached the dive master, he had his reg­u­la­tor out of his mouth and he was try­ing to grasp for the dive master’s reg­u­la­tor,” Bradley said. “The dive master was caught in the kelp, so he couldn’t get to him, and Ti­mothy was drift­ing away with­out his reg­u­la­tor in his mouth.”

Chu’s fam­ily ex­pressed con­cern that his dive was sched­uled at the height of an ebb tide of 5.6 knots and that he was ac­com­pa­nied by a dive master who had only once be­fore gone div­ing at that spot.

Bradley said con­di­tions were not dan­ger­ous and other divers out the same day en­coun­tered no prob­lems.

Chu had his ad­vanced open-wa­ter diver cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence div­ing in cold wa­ter. “He was fully ca­pa­ble of do­ing those sites,” Bradley said.

The dive cen­tre has pro­vided the in­for­ma­tion to the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice and the RCMP.

“It was just a hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dent, and we’re so sym­pa­thetic for the fam­ily,” Bradley said.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t think they’re hav­ing any­one come for­ward and tell them what hap­pened. And I’m sure they’re emo­tional and it’s hard to ac­cept.”

The fam­ily is call­ing for a coroner’s in­quest to ex­am­ine the “sys­tem­atic break­down” lead­ing to Chu’s death.

“At stake is not just the global im­age of Bri­tish Columbia’s tourism in­dus­try, but also the pub­lic con­cern about whether this gov­ern­ment will take ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to mit­i­gate sim­i­lar pre­ventable deaths and the re­lated $1-mil­lion-plus cost per search and res­cue to tax­pay­ers,” the fam­ily said in a state­ment.

The fam­ily also wants to see bet­ter reg­u­la­tions for the div­ing in­dus­try in B.C., sim­i­lar to reg­u­la­tions in Que­bec and Aus­tralia.

The coroner’s of­fice is con­tin­u­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Chu’s death, and the chief coroner has not made a de­ci­sion on whether to hold an in­quest, said coroner Barb McLin­tock. Ac­cord­ing to the Coro­ners Act, in­quests can be called if “the death re­sulted from a dan­ger­ous prac­tice or cir­cum­stance” and sim­i­lar deaths could be pre­vented.

McLin­tock said in­ves­ti­ga­tions into div­ing deaths can take longer be­cause of tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion that must be gath­ered, in­clud­ing ex­pert in­for­ma­tion from the Cana­dian Coast Guard.

Chu’s dis­ap­pear­ance sparked a mas­sive search from the air and on the wa­ter. His body was found seven weeks later by a fish­er­man, who spot­ted it off a buoy near Race Rocks.

Ti­mothy Chu, 27

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