Visiting diver ran out of air, vanished
‘Horrible accident’ at Race Rocks
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