31 January 2005

Peace and healing mark memorial for ill-fated diver

Michael Vickers, Dave Shaw's priest, looked Theo and Marie Dreyer in the eye: "No guilt," he said.

Theo then turned to 23-year-old Steven Shaw and said: "Your dad inspired people. He lived in love. You had a great dad. You can treasure that."

This was moments after yesterday's memorial service in Pretoria for Steven's father, Dave, the Australian who died on January 8 trying to fetch Deon Dreyer's body from a watery grave for his parents.

Vickers, the Shaws' priest in Hong Kong, where Dave and his wife Ann had lived since 1989, came to South Africa with Steven for the service.

Shaw's ashes will be scattered in one of the dark caves that the 51-year-old airline pilot had lived to explore. Boesmansgat, the Northern Cape cave in which Shaw died, might be his final resting place.

"His ashes might remain at the place where he died - that would be nice - but we are thinking about leaving them in one of the other caves he dived at," said Steven, a theology student.

Boesmansgat will become Deon's final resting place on August 7 - on what would have been his 31st birthday - when his parents sprinkle his ashes in the cave that claimed his life a decade ago.

During the service, Vickers spoke about Dave the explorer.

"Dave pushed boundaries," he said.

It was while pushing boundaries at Boesmansgat on October 28 that Dave stumbled on Dreyer's remains.

Dave had broken the world depth record for a diver using a rebreather system (where his air is recycled) when in the beam of his torchlight he saw Deon's body in his wetsuit.

At the service, Steven, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the legend "No Fear", recited a prayer. Vickers read a letter from Lisa, Shaw's 21-year-old daughter.

"It is only with his death that I have come to realise the profound effect that my father has had on so many people."

"My father approached the world with the desires of a 20-year-old but with the wisdom of a 50-year-old, always striving to discover new things," she said.

"Although, I would like to say that I find it very odd that a man who could master two very difficult professions - diving and being a pilot - with such skill was completely incapable of undertaking a simple task such as making a sandwich."

"He has gone out with a bang and I cannot think of anything more fitting or anyone more deserving of such a departure than my father."

On January 12, in a dramatic twist to the ill-fated dive, Deon's and Dave's bodies resurfaced when technical divers were fetching cylinders used in the dive.

Although Vickers and Steven both stressed "No fear, no guilt, no condemnation", Theo said he couldn't help but feel responsible for what had happened.

"Dave did his best to fetch my son, and his attempt proved fatal. It sits in the back of my mind."

"I believe it was Dave's choice and that he had decided to fetch Deon when he saw his body. For him it was another challenge."

The cause of Deon's death is unlikely to be established, considering the length of time the body was underwater.

On Saturday, police released his remains to his parents.

"I touched Deon," Marie said. "I've been through so many emotions since Dave phoned to tell us he had found Deon."

"I've been waiting for him for 10 years. I know people don't understand it, but seeing his body has given me the chance to say goodbye."

Marie said it had been a difficult time, especially losing Dave, but the family were beginning to heal.

"I'm happy that I had a chance to say goodbye to Deon."

Steven put the tragedy into perspective when he said: "I'm glad that Dad was able to fulfil his mission and bring Deon back. My dad died doing something he loved - diving. He also died helping people."


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