By Steven Fletcher
---- — State Police investigators have found that a possible improper gear setup and what they continue to assert was “inexperience” played a role in the death of a North Carolina diver off Rafe’s Chasm last week.
Tyler Greathouse, 28, of Raleigh, N.C., died while scuba diving with family members near Popplestone Ledge, off Rafe’s Chasm. He was diving with a drysuit, a more complicated diving suit than the standard wetsuit, according to the Massachusetts State Police report obtained Tuesday by the Times.
Greathouse’s family and friends have insisted that he had been a licensed diver for seven years, and that his partners that day had decades of experience – at least one with more than 30 years in the water. A request for comment sent to a family friend was not returned Tuesday. Regardless of experience, said Gloucester Detective Steven Mizzoni, Greathouse’s death was a tragedy.
“It was a tragic accident,” said Mizzoni.
According to Mizzoni, Greathouse became distressed during the dive, and family members pulled him up on board the vessel and started trying to resuscitate him. They sent out a call for help over the radio waves, and a crew from Coast Guard station Gloucester responded, and tried to resuscitate Greathouse from Popplestone Ledge to the Guard Station.
The state medical examiner hasn’t yet released the cause of death to Gloucester Police, Mizzoni confirmed Tuesday.
However, state police divers found Greathouse’s gear in 35 feet of water off Popplestone ledge on Aug. 14, the day after the accident.
Trooper Patrick Foley of the State Police underwater recovery unit assessed the gear. He said an inflator hose wasn’t connected to Greathouse’s buoyancy control device when police recovered the suit.
Mizzoni said police don’t know whether the hose was attached and became disconnected, or whether it wasn’t attached during the dive.
A buoyancy control device, or BCD, is a vest with several bladders. A diver fills those with air, either manually or from the air tank to float back to the surface or balance out diving weights. Greathouse wore 20 pounds of diving weights, according to the state police report.
“It is unusual for this hose to be disconnected and it would have been a contributing factor to why the victim was unable to maintain buoyancy on the surface,” Foley states in his report.
Also, Foley said, the weight release system on Greathouse’s suit worked, but didn’t appear to be used.
“Using my training, experience, and past diver fatality investigations, it is my opinion that the contributing factors of the victim’s death was his inexperience, possible improper gear set up and inexperience of his ‘dive buddy,’” Foley’s report states.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StevenGDT.