For a dive boat operator, you’d think this would be a lesson in the obvious: Make sure all the divers on your boat are back on your doggone boat before you leave a dive site.
Kyaa Heller, a dive boat operator who allegedly didn’t know a diver had not returned to her boat before leaving a dive site near California’s Catalina Island last December, voluntarily surrendered her merchant mariner’s license earlier this month.
The diver, Laurel Silver-Valker, was never found and is presumed dead.
Following an investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard filed an administrative complaint seeking revocation of Heller‘s merchant mariner credential and charged her with one count of “negligence for failing to maintain proper passenger accountability, and five counts of misconduct related to the operation of a commercial vessel,” according to the Coast Guard.
Rather than appearing at a suspension and revocation hearing before a federal administrative law judge, Heller voluntarily surrendered her merchant mariner credential to the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Menefee said:
“This is a tragic case, and our hope is that the small passenger vessel community, and in particular, dive boat operators, take some important lessons from this case to prevent such an incident from ever happening again. There is no excuse for departing a dive site without confirming all passengers are on board and accounted for. Passenger vessel operators must take the role and responsibility of Master seriously, as the safety of their passengers is in their hands. The responsibility of a Master cannot be delegated.”
Following the diver’s disappearance, the local Coast Guard office released a marine safety bulletin reminding all small passenger vessel operators of the importance of passenger accountability. If you want to read it, check it out here: http://go.usa.gov/chwjH