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Divers Found ! This time in Indonesia.

Posted by Scuba Herald on Jun 9th, 2008 and filed under Dive Safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Mmm so we wonder who is next in this great season of missing divers.

Three British divers who were swept away with two other Europeans during a dive off Indonesia have been found safe after managing to swim to a remote beach on an island 25 miles away. The 36-hour ordeal saw them carried to the neighbouring island by strong currents while they waited for their dive boat to return.

Fearing their rescue might take days, the dive party began scavenging for shellfish to survive and were forced to use rocks to drive off a komodo dragon – one of the huge, aggressive lizards native to the area that are capable of killing humans.

After being caught in a rip current the group tried to swim out of danger but became exhausted and tied themselves together with their dive vests. They finally managed to swim to Rinca island after dark on Thursday night in a last-ditch effort to reach land before they were swept out into the open ocean.

One of the party, a French tourist, said he and the four other European divers on a trip with Reefseekers, a UK company, spent two nights on the Indonesian island eating shellfish as they awaited rescue.

At the time of the accident, local divers reported the current in the area of Tawa Besar island to be “very,very strong”, leading to questions about the party’s choice of dive location.

Laurent Pinel, 31, said yesterday that the group survived off mussels and had to fight off a komodo dragon while they were waiting to be spotted in the Komodo national park.

“We had nothing to eat. We ate some kind of mussels scraped from the rocks,” Pinel said, after reaching a medical clinic on Flores island – a common base for dive charters.

“On the beach a komodo dragon came among us yesterday afternoon,” he said, describing how the group had pelted the dangerous reptile with rocks to scare it away.

He said the divers – three Britons, himself and a Swede – had spent about nine hours adrift at sea after being swept away from their dive boat in a strong current late Thursday afternoon.

“If we’d continued [to drift], it would have been the ocean,” he said. “We were exhausted. Everyone had cramps.”

The group was found before midday yesterday by national park rangers who took them to Labuanbajo. They had set off from there on Thursday for what was supposed to be a routine day of diving. Pinel said they were in relatively good condition considering their ordeal.

Ernest Leandowski, the husband of the British dive master Kathleen Mitchinson, who was leading the dive, first broke news of the rescue. “They have been found, they are alive and are now on their way to get medical assistance. That is all I can say at this stage as I have not yet spoken to my wife.”

Lewandowski had been with another diving party near where the group went missing, and raised the alarm after finding no sign of his wife’s group when he surfaced.

The Britons, Mitchinson, Charlotte Allin and James Manning, along with two other divers believed to be from France and Sweden, had been missing since 3pm local time on Thursday.

Charlotte Allin’s father, Dave Allin, said yesterday: “We know that they have been found. It is fantastic news. It has been a very long night. I haven’t spoken to Charlotte yet and we don’t know what their medical condition is – they have been floating out there for two days. We are still waiting for news of how they are.”

“I gather that they have managed to walk under their own steam which is a good sign,” he added.

Speaking from the family home in the village of Northam, near Bideford, Devon, he said: “We have all the family over here. There are about 12 of us including the grandparents and we are all celebrating. We have been sitting around waiting for news all night. It is pretty emotional as you can imagine.”

Allin’s mother, Sue, said: “I didn’t believe that she was all right until I heard her voice.”

Mr Allin said Charlotte and her boyfriend, James Manning, 30, were diving instructors who had been teaching scuba diving in Phi Phi, Thailand, for about two years. He said they would be coming home soon and joked that he would “lock her up” to keep her safe.

The Local police chief, Lt Col Buce Helo, said the divers had drifted for more than 12 hours before arriving at the remote Rinca island, about 20 miles south of their dive site.

The accident, one of a spate of recent tourist diving deaths around the world, follows an incident last month when a British man and his American partner spent 19 hours adrift off the great barrier reef.

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