View Full Version : Death Comes to the Young

Alan D. Hyde
10-27-2005, 10:26 AM
Francis Bacon liked to say that the old GO to their deaths, but death COMES to the young...

Abby was at Hanover College with our son, and has spent time at our house over the years.

She wasn't far from becoming a full-fledged physician---


(Courtesy of http://new.channel5belize.com )

Three missing divers rescued; one doesn't make it

When we signed off on this broadcast last night it was with the news that the four divers missing at sea since Saturday had been spotted by a B.D.F. aircraft. Tonight we can report that three of them have survived and are recovering at a Belize City hospital. Although the survivors have yet to tell their tale, today I was able to piece together some details of their ordeal and the implications of the tragedy.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting:

After drifting at sea for more than two days, at approximately six thirty on Monday night, four scuba divers, last seen near Silk Caye, were pulled from the water some twenty miles south east of North East Caye on Glover’s Reef. The four divers were found in the same area, but were floating separately from each other.

Terribly dehydrated and sunburnt, three of the divers had survived their traumatic ordeal at sea, but twenty-eight year old Abigail Brinkman, the only one not wearing a wetsuit, did not. Her body has been transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where a post-mortem was conducted this afternoon.

The survivors: thirty-eighth year old Nancy Masters, fifty year old John Bain, and thirty-four year old Yutaka Maeda were later airlifted by BATSUB helicopter from South Water Caye to Universal Health Services in Belize City.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga, Universal Health Services:

”They were hypothermic, dehydrated, not only that, but had ingested quite a bit of salt water, badly sunburnt, all fair skinned people, no food, very hungry.”

“They got disoriented after a while, so fortunately those that survived had on wet suits, and the one who did not survive didn’t have a wet suit. And according to them, she passed with time, she just couldn’t make it. But their ordeal was really terrible, they are lucky to alive.”

Dr. Victor Lizarraga is one of the attending physicians treating the survivors.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga:

”One was in bad shape, the smaller of the three, more hypothermic than the rest. At that point in time what we do is immediate resuscitative measures with intravenous fluid rehydration. One of the problems with ingesting seawater is that you get metabolic problems, so we had to check that right away and warm them up as quickly as possible. The big problem right now is the burns, the two days of sun; it will take a while for that to get fully recovered.”

Janelle Chanona:

“First, second, third degree?”

Dr. Victor Lizarraga:

”The probably have second degree burns, it's sunray burns and mainly it’s the upper part of the body, the exposed part of the body. But they are already drinking and eating, their other electrolyte and metabolic problems are being corrected right now. They should be in good shape tomorrow, better shape, I shouldn’t say good, but better shape than they were when they came in.”

It was nurse Nancy Masters who used what little strength she had left to wave to the B.D.F. defender flying overhead during a massive international search and rescue effort. That was at exactly three minutes to three on Monday afternoon. Officers on board the aircraft called in to the nearest land base, Northeast Caye, and using G.P.S. coordinates all boats in the area were immediately dispatched to the site.

Abigail Brinkman had arrived in Belize on Saturday, October first. A medical student from the U.S. state of Indiana, Brinkman was doing volunteer work in fulfilment of her degree requirements at the Jericho Hillside Clinic in Elridgeville in the Toledo District. Tonight we understand she was scheduled to leave the country this weekend. Co-workers at the clinic today remembered her love for diving and how excited she was after a series of dives off Ambergris Caye earlier this month.

Brinkman was part of a group that left Placencia around ten-thirty on Saturday morning. Six stayed on Silk Caye to snorkel, while the foursome left with dive master Henry “Bee Bee” Tucker to Gladden Spit. Sources tonight indicate that shortly after the group finished their first dive, Tucker discovered that the engine wouldn’t start, apparently because water had gotten into the gas tank. This morning, Tucker told News Five that on directives of the Belize Police Department, he was unable to make an official comment on the incident. However, according to a press release issued by the Belize Tourism Industry Association on Monday afternoon, Tucker had asked the divers to stay on the boat until help came.

B.T.I.A. Press Release:

“He [Henry Mark Tucker] told the search party that against his persistent advice to stay with the boat and await rescue, the four divers, wearing full dive gear, decided to try and swim for Silk Caye while it was still within sight on Saturday.”

This is the second time in less than a year in which Advance Diving has been involved in a diving mishap. On December twenty-ninth, 2004, owner/operator the dive shop Vance Cabral was behind the wheel of the same vessel, Advance One, when it capsized in rough seas near South Water Caye with ten divers on board. While no one was injured in that incident, the Belize Tour Operators Committee, a subsidiary of the Belize Tourism Board, had suspended Cabral’s tour guide license for one month, put him on a one year probation, and mandated that standard safety measures be on board at all times.

Tonight News Five understands that both Cabral and Tuckers’ tour guide licenses were expired at the time of the latest incident. Although the B.T.B. could not confirm that information, Product Development Manager Anthony Mahler told News Five that the committee will meet this Friday to discuss the fate of Advance Diving.

Anthony Mahler, Product Dev. Mgr., Belize Tourism Board:

”It doesn’t look good for Mr. Cabral, I can say that. He’s under probation at this point in time and according to the tourists that were onboard with him, most of the dive shops refused to take them out on that day and he chose to, knowing that this was a critical incident that happened a few months ago and he was still under probation. So it doesn’t look good from my point at this time. But there is a committee made up of his peers and other public officers and we will decide that on Friday when we meet.”

Janelle Chanona:

“What would be the types of measures that you could take, another suspension?”

Anthony Mahler:

”Well this one involves a loss of life and maybe a total revocation of license, and so he wouldn’t be able to hold—I don’t want to speculate on what would be the outcome of that, but those are along the lines. Maybe a revocation for a year who knows, but this is a serious incident and we don’t take it very lightly and I’m sure he is going to be used as a guide on where we want the industry to go in terms of safety and standards. “

John Searle, PADI Course Director:

”In general, Belize has very good safety standards. The standards are all in place. Most of the accidents that I am aware of have been things that really we could prevent.”

In the aftermath of the maritime disaster, this afternoon, the country’s first PADI course director John Searle, told News Five every diver should check for basic safety equipment on board before leaving the mainland. Communication equipment and life jackets are key, but things like wet suits, fluorescent flags, and signalling lights can make a big difference.

John Searle:

”Things that I would be looking for would be emergency oxygen on board, certainly first aid kit, basic boating safety, items like your anchor, running lights, things like that as well.”

“There are lots of dive accessories that you can use as signalling devices in the case that you were doing a drift dive and maybe the boat lost contact with you, things that you could signal the boat or signal someone on shore with. Things like that would be maybe an air horn, an audible device like an air horn or a whistle and also they have devices that we call signal tubes that you basically inflate with air and they extend maybe six feet above the surface of the water.

According to officials at the United States Embassy in Belize City, fifty year old John Bain is from Kansasville, Wisconsin. Nancy Masters is a visitor from Portland, Oregon; while Yutaka Maeda is a Japanese citizen. Before coming to Belize, Abigail Brinkman was living in Indianapolis, Indiana. The group of divers were spotted by the sharp eyes of Lieutenant Christopher Neal and Captain Raymond Shepherd of the Belize Defence Force. On behalf of the victims' families, we thank them and everyone else who participated in the rescue effort.


Be careful out there...


[ 10-27-2005, 12:41 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

Billy Bones
10-27-2005, 11:13 AM
That's very sad. My heart goes out to you and all who are affected.

As you might imagine we here in this household pay close attention to dive accidents.

Belize seems to have more than their share.

10-27-2005, 11:29 AM
My condolences to you and her family Alan. We never know where tradgedy will hit. :(

10-27-2005, 11:39 AM
Sorry, Alan. I guess they were right when they said it isn't always fair.

10-27-2005, 11:42 AM
I'm sorry, Alan. Presumably she died doing something she loved, and that's more than minor compensation.

Alan D. Hyde
10-27-2005, 11:52 AM
From www.WTHR.com (http://www.WTHR.com) ---

"Excursion company had problems before death of Columbus woman

Excursion company questioned

October 26 - There's no clear evidence yet as to how 28-year-old Abigail Brinkman was the only one of four divers who didn't make it back to shore. She drowned while scuba diving off the coast of Belize.

As her father prepares to travel to Belize Thursday, the focus now is on why the diving company didn't take care of the former 500 Festival princess.

According to Channel 5 in Belize, the company called Advanced Diving is under investigation for the second time this year.

"The snorklers and the remaining dive realized the boat was in trouble and saw it veering off course," said Abigail's mother.

Ten divers and two guides left the Belize coast in a boat Saturday morning. It dropped off a group of snorklers on South Silke Caye. The remaining six people motored on out to the Barrier Reef for scuba diving. But something happened to the engine.

The four divers on board, including Abby, decided to jump and swim back to Silk Caye.

"I could see still see the Cayes, so we figured we could still get our dive equipment on and we could dive it. I felt that we could swim it anyway.But once we got into the water we realized that the waves were much larger than they even appeared," said survivor Nancy Masters.

Rescuers pulled the divers out two days later.

According to Belize television reports, Abby was the only one not wearing a wetsuit.

And other questions still loom, why didn't the boat have warning flares or radios? And why was the tour conducted by two guides with suspended licenses?

While Roger Brinkman goes to the Carribbean to bring Abby back home, he's also working to make sure the diving company doesn't put another person's life in jeopardy. "Any parent that's lost a child is a parent's worst nightmare."

Even if it's a horse trail ride or a jeep tour, you can do some homework. If you plan an excursion, AAA Travel says to ask the hotel your staying at for references. Travel agents and tour operators often know a company's reputation.

Often it's tough to get answers. But ask the questions."




10-27-2005, 04:21 PM
Too bad for poor Tucker, his real failing was not keeping his clients under control. These college kids were probably over the side before he knew it. Did he warn them about currents? Did he call the Belize police when they jumped?

10-27-2005, 04:40 PM
Although I am greatly saddened at the loss of life in this instance, the divemaster is an advisor, not a policeman. If in fact Mr tucker advised them to stay aboard and they chose to go, he should not be required to be held in Blame. These people, as open ocean divers, were in control of their own lives.
My condolences.

George Roberts
10-27-2005, 05:04 PM
The usual advice is to say with a ship until it sinks.

Much easier to spot a ship than a swimmer.

Alan D. Hyde
10-27-2005, 05:18 PM
I agree, George.

The Fastnet Race deaths demonstrated that.

But, when you're young and optimistic, a good swimmer, impatient, and not too far offshore... :(


Tom Hunter
10-27-2005, 05:23 PM
They left the boat, it is not suprising that one of them died, and the other three almost died. It is tragic and terrible, but pretty much what one would expect.

"We could still see land, so we thought we could make it." I wonder how many times those have been some ones last words?

Christopher Locke
10-27-2005, 05:24 PM
I wouldn't call 50, 38, 34 or even 28 young or college kids, not to denigrate them in any way. Just not a good decision period, hindsight being 20/20.

10-27-2005, 05:33 PM
Stay with the boat. Can't stress that advice enough. As with any good safety advice, you must make your decision before the crises arrives, and keep to it.

I coxed crew in college. The year before I joined we had a death when a shell overturned. Eight people stayed with the boat. One swam for shore. He was washed over a weir and drowned in the trap.

I'm sorry for her loss, and such a promising life. May some good come of her untimely end by serving as a warning to others.

10-27-2005, 08:46 PM
I have had a couple close calls and seen 1 death while diving, taking the advice of the "divemaster". I have learned to voice my opinion if it doesnt feel safe, even at the cost of pissing someone off. Me and a friend sat out a dive because of the attitude and experience of a fellow in the group. He didnt survive that dive. What more can you do?

Domesticated_Mr. Know It All
10-27-2005, 09:40 PM
Sad news Alan. :(
As much as I love the water, it constantly humbles me with it's power and brutality.
So much so lately.
When I was about 12 my best friend drowned diving through an under water rock cave in Lake Erie. I was one of the half dozen kids who swam through it earlier that day showin off. Later I got the news that my friend Jack somehow got stuck or hit his head and died at a place we called "The Gap". I've had a healthy fear and respect of water ever since. Sadly it's only one of the many bad endings to good days on the water that I've endured.
The lesson renforced to me over and over in my life....
Like fish caught in cruel nets, sometimes really good people are just caught in bad times. :(

Rick Tyler
10-27-2005, 09:40 PM
Originally posted by George Roberts:
The usual advice is to say with a ship until it sinks.Isn't the long version, "don't abandon ship until you have to step up into the lifeboat"?

- Rick

Peter Malcolm Jardine
10-27-2005, 10:09 PM
Very sad... a young life cut short. :(

10-28-2005, 09:45 AM
A terrible thing to happen, and faulting the dive guide is obviously the first response. He certainly has some blame, and should have his license revoked since the ordeal was HIS fault, but the death was her fault.. it could have been avoided. :(

This is why when I was certified for open water and drift diving they emphasized the standard safety precautions, several of which were not followed by the young lady who died, and one of which is drummed into you relentlessly (well, by -my- dive instructor, who certified me in New England waters and has been diving for 30 years):

ALWAYS dive with a wet suit, no matter how warm the water may seem. Even in 80 degree water, your body will start to suffer from hypothermia in a matter of hours.

I wouldn't EVER do anything but snorkeling (and that within make or break swim distance to a boat/land) if I didn't have on a wet suit, including hood and boots. And of course, leaving the boat was mistake #1...

*sigh* My heart goes out to the family, and now we have another example to teach with to new divers.


[ 10-28-2005, 10:49 AM: Message edited by: TimothyB ]

Alan D. Hyde
10-28-2005, 10:20 AM
Courtesy of www.indystar.com (http://www.indystar.com) ---

Adrift at sea: a survivor's harrowing story
Hoosier perished after boat's engine, anchor and radio reportedly failed on dive trip

By Raygan Swan

The boat's engine gave out, the anchor broke, the radio malfunctioned and the dive master didn't have a compass.

Almost everything that could have gone wrong did, said Nancy Masters, one of four divers on a fatal scuba diving excursion off the Caribbean coast of Belize.

"I would never discourage anyone from going to Belize. I'll dive again, but never with blind trust," the 37-year-old Portland, Ore., nurse said by phone Thursday, shortly after leaving a hospital in Belize City.

Masters and three other divers floated for almost three days in high seas, with scorching sun and bone-chilling nights.

Abigail Brinkman, a 28-year-old Columbus native and Indiana University medical student, died during the ordeal.

Her father, Roger Brinkman, flew to Belize on Thursday to claim her body.

Two other divers survived. John Bain, 50, Racine, Wis., and Yutaka Maeda, 34, a Japanese national, were treated for hypothermia and released from the hospital Thursday.

Warning ignored

Joined by six snorkelers, the divers had left Placencia Village on Saturday morning despite a small-craft warning and rough water from Hurricane Wilma.

Masters said other dive companies had refused to go out that day, but she and the other divers were referred to Advance Diving by a reputable hotel, and Advance took them out.

"We didn't know about the (craft) warning," she said. "The captain should've taken responsibility and not taken us out. You know he knew."

The captain and owner of Advance Diving, Vance Cabral, could not be reached for comment.

Their first stop Saturday morning was at South Silk Caye, where the boat dropped off the snorkelers. Masters said that as the boat headed out for deeper water, its anchor broke, its engine failed and the radio wouldn't come on.
Rather than stay on the drifting boat -- as tourism officials said the divers had been advised to do -- Masters and the other divers thought they could swim below the rough water back to South Silk Caye, which was still in sight.

"(But) the waves were much greater than what we thought," she said. "And we tried to find our way from the sun, but visibility was poor."
The two men had on partial wetsuits. Masters had clothing on over a swimsuit, and Brinkman wore a two-piece bathing suit. All had oxygen tanks.
Despite their efforts to stay together, the divers became separated.

Recalling details from her 50 hours in the water, Masters said she exhausted herself during daylight trying to flag down planes and reach passing boats.

At night, staying afloat with her buoyancy vest and wearing a bathing suit, T-shirt and shorts, Masters shivered herself to sleep, only to have huge waves crash over her head.

At times, Masters became delirious.

"I would hallucinate buoys and land," she said. "But my mind created different scenarios to help me deal."

She didn't worry about sharks until fish began nipping at her legs.

Masters kicked her legs and fanned her arms to keep them away. "I didn't know if they wanted to bite me, but I figured if they drew blood, sharks would become a problem and that would be my end."

On Monday afternoon, the third day of their ordeal, Masters was rescued by a Belize Defense Force search team, which also picked up Maeda and found Brinkman's body. Recreational boaters rescued Bain.

"You take for granted the ability to put your feet on something solid," Masters said. "Land is a nice thing."

"So much potential"

Roger Brinkman called home to Columbus after identifying his daughter's body Thursday evening, said Allison Yee, a close friend and classmate of Abigail Brinkman's.

"He said . . . she didn't look the same but was still beautiful."

An autopsy report has not been completed, but officials speculate Brinkman died of hypothermia.
Yee, 26, said she would miss Abigail's smile, laugh and wisdom.

The two women had celebrated the end of their third year of medical school by taking a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, over spring break and took salsa lessons together in Indianapolis.

"We are all devastated. She had so much potential," Yee said.

Brinkman had planned to pursue a residency in pediatrics after graduation next May.

It was her second trip to Belize, where she was taking part in a tropical medicine internship to help people in southern Belize.

Abigail Brinkman was an experienced diver and a former 500 Festival princess.

She is survived by her parents, Janet and Roger Brinkman, and a brother, Jacob, among other relatives. A memorial service was planned for 2 p.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus.


Ill-fated diving trip under investigation

Authorities in Belize are investigating the dive trip that left a Hoosier dead, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Belize Tourism Industry Association President Lucy Fleming said the tragedy underscores the need for stricter control within the scuba industry. "We have very good rules and regulations on the books. Now we must make sure that those regulations are adhered to and enforced," Fleming said in a statement.

Bob Craig, 56, an official with the Midwest Divers Club in Indianapolis, said divers head to developing countries at their own risk.

"In Belize, they do what they want to do," he said. "Some operators have the safety equipment, depending on the outfit you go with: a marine radio, back-up motor, flares, anchors."