Coast Guard investigating after diving trip ends tragically - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Coast Guard investigating after diving trip ends tragically

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

The United States Coast Guard is investigating the circumstances surrounding a tragic incident that claimed a life during a diving expedition.

A diver drowned during a tour with Sea Island Divers. This incident was ruled accidental, but following our report of the incident, many of our viewers were concerned that the business didn’t have a license to operate the tour in the first place. The U.S. Coast Guard explained the different kinds of regulations that are in place to protect both captains and passengers of a boat, and why the agency would investigate the tour, regardless of whether the business had the proper license or not.

"There was a fatality that occurred there in the waters, subject to jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, so that's what prompted it,” said Lt. Commander Shannon Scaff, U.S. Coast Guard. 

One thing the agency will be examining during its investigation is the presence of a captain's license, which basically gives a boat owner permission to charter his boat.

"Based on the vessel that we're talking about here, that would fall under the category of an uninspected passenger vessel. A UPV is a vessel that is less than 100 gross tons, carrying no more than six passengers, including one passenger for hire,” Lt. Commander Scaff said.

That passenger for hire would be, at minimum, one person who is paying for services provided by the boat. However, in order for someone to operate these types of vessels, they must have the appropriate license in order to accept profit for taking people out on their boat. If an operator is caught without this certification, there are civil penalties.

"If you're found to be operation in violation of these requirements, your vessel could be suspended from operating, and you could face civil penalties of up to six years in prison and $250,000 in fines. In cases where individuals are licensed, they could lose it in similar cases," said Lt. Commander Scaff. 

The Coast Guard adds that whether or not the operator would lose his/her license following a fatality, depends on the specifics of the case. At this time, the diving equipment from the Sea Island dive tour will be sent to a naval laboratory in Panama City, FL, for a forensic examination to see what factors played a role in the drowning.

The Coast Guard could not comment on whether or not Sea Island Divers had the proper operator's license, because the investigation is still ongoing.

We did, however, check with Beaufort County, and found that Sea Island Divers does not hold a business license with the county.

Since the incident, the company has posted on its website that it will be closed for business until further notice.

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