How to Kill a Novice Diver

Posted on November 24, 2007 by Scuba Herald

THE coronial inquest into the death of honeymooning scuba diver Tina Watson was told yesterday it would be “very easy” to kill an inexperienced diver underwater. Barrister Damien Atkinson, representing dive operator Mike Ball Expeditions, posed the scenario in cross-examining dive instructor Wade Singleton.

Mr Singleton, now an ambulance paramedic, was the trip director on the dive boat Spoil Sport when Mrs Watson died while diving on the shipwreck of the Yongala, off Townsville, on October 22, 2003.

The highly qualified instructor found the lifeless body of the former model, 26, “abandoned” on the sea floor by her dive partner and husband of just 10 days, Gabe Watson.

Mr Singleton rushed her to the surface and tried to revive her for 30 minutes before she was declared dead.

A post-mortem found she may have suffered oxygen deprivation before drowning.

Mr Atkinson asked: “If you were trying to hurt somebody, and if the main air supply was turned off, would they go quickly into hypoxia?”

“Yes,” Mr Singleton replied.

“They would go into spasms and not long after that they would be well gone?”


“And if you wanted to make it look like no harm was intended you could turn the air supply back on?” Mr Atkinson asked.


Seven minutes after seeing the Watsons on the surface, Mr Singleton found the woman lying dead 28m down on the sea floor with air in her tank, her regulator working and in her mouth, but no air in her buoyancy control device.

Mr Watson – who lives in Hoover, Alabama – has declined to attend the inquest but is to give evidence by video-link. He has been named as a suspect in the death by police in Helena, Alabama.

Mr Singleton fought back tears as barrister Harvey Walters, on behalf of Mrs Watson’s parents Tommy and Cindy Thomas, yesterday thanked him for his efforts.

“You took her to the surface without regard for your own safety,” Mr Walters said.

“You worked an extraordinary amount of time to try to save her.

“And you allowed them to take their daughter home and not let her be lost to the ocean.”

Mr Singleton said Mr Watson, a trained rescue diver, broke all protocols when he abandoned his wife, who was clearly in distress and clutching at his regulator for air.

A witness saw Mr Watson holding his unresponsive wife in a face-to-face “bear-hug”.

A police dive re-enactment found it took Mr Watson “a pedestrian” two minutes to get 15m to the surface.

But it took Mr Singleton a minute-and-a-half to travel twice the distance carrying Mrs Watson’s body.

The inquest continues.

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