Boat Captain Arrested Following Fatal Diving Expedition Accident

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Diving accidentBoating accidents can happen at a moment’s notice, but when the accident occurs under the supervision of an excursion team, liability is often placed on those in charge. Excursion operators have a duty to keep those under their protection safe from harm, and this includes abiding by proper maritime safety laws, having sufficient experience with water-based activities and their vessels, and maintaining their vessels in top condition. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

Though there are times when vessel operators get away with negligent acts, it appears as though one boat captain in Indonesia will be held accountable for his wrongful actions.  The captain, who was involved in a fatal diving expedition near Bali, has been arrested for his role in the tragedy.

Seven Japanese women took part in a diving expedition last week from Nusa Lembongan island but became lost at sea after the vessel they were sailing on left them stranded in the middle of the ocean. Under terrible weather conditions, the divers struggled to survive while drifting in the waters, with no one in sight to help them. Five of the divers somehow managed to climb on top of some rocks until a rescue team arrived – three days later.

The body of one of the divers was located this week, but the search for the seventh diver was called off after rescuers were unable to find her.

After the women were rescued, they spoke with authorities to give their account of the incident. As a result of their statements, the boat captain was named as a suspect and was arrested.

According to police, the victims were told they would dive for 30 minutes, but when they came back up to the surface, the vessel, named the Ocean Express, was nowhere in sight. Police are also investigating one of the instructors on the expedition who runs the scuba company that organized the trip.

The boat’s skipper said he had been following the divers for about 20 minutes before a sudden downpour decreased visibility. At this point, he decided to move the boat several meters away where the divers were expected to resurface but they never did. He then said he tried to search for the divers for an hour before reporting the incident.

It’s hard to imagine the boat would have to change locations for any reason. Even if the vessel had to be relocated, the captain should have sounded some sort of signal to alert the divers that there was a change of plans. And from hearing the stories of the unfavorable weather conditions, our boating accident lawyers are in shock that the diving expedition even took place.

Though accidents at sea can be prevented when boat operators follow proper protocols and maritime laws, weather is one of those factors that cannot be controlled. If the weather forecasts predict a storm, the excursion should have been cancelled in order to prevent an accident. Severe weather can cause hazardous waves that can tip a boat over. If a vessel malfunctions in bad weather, the lives of those onboard are also placed at risk if the boat cannot be maneuvered to a safe area.

There are endless possibilities that could have played a role in this diving accident, but there is simply no excuse for the boat to have abandoned the divers.

Four of the five survivors have already been released from hospital care and recounted their experiences to authorities, and their stories are nothing short of remarkable.

The four women gave a joint statement to police, explaining how they worked together and encouraged each other to remain optimistic in the midst of such a grave situation. The currents had pushed the women to some rocks in a remote area off of Nusa Penida island, close to where the diving trip began. They explained they climbed up to the highest point on the rights to flash distress signals at night, all while fighting hunger, thirst and exhaustion. The women even resorted to collecting rain water to stay as hydrated as possible.

Miraculously, the majority of the victims were rescued. We don’t even know if they had life jackets to protect themselves but it appears as though safety was not a priority for the captain or the instructors on the vessel. Hopefully the victims will obtain justice for this horrible accident. Any time someone is involved in a boating accident, victims have a right to contact a maritime attorney for assistance in filing a case, especially if negligence was involved. These women appear to have a substantial case, especially because two lives were lost because of the actions of the boat captain and perhaps the actions of others as well.