28 October 2005

Belize: Diving accident that killed U.S. woman apparently caused by boat malfunction

An American woman died and three companions spent three days floating in stormy Caribbean off Belize after their weekend diving trip went awry, officials said Wednesday.

Abigail Brinkman, 28, of Columbus, Ind., was found floating dead south of Belize on Monday. John Bain, 50, of Racine, Wis., was treated for hypothermia and a jellyfish sting and released from hospital, said Marco Prouty, an official with the U.S. Embassy in Belize.

The two other survivors, Nancy Masters, 38, of Portland, Ore., and Japanese citizen Yutaka Maeda, 34, were in good condition.

The four were part of a 12-member dive trip that left South Silk Caye on the south of the tiny Central American nation Saturday morning despite a small craft warning and rough seas in the wake of Hurricane Wilma.

After the boat began having problems, most of the expedition apparently got off at an island while the four continued on the ill-fated trip.

"There were reports the anchor broke, the engine stopped, and the radio wasn't working," said Prouty. Belizean authorities were investigating the ordeal.

The four divers then made a failed attempt to swim to a nearby island from the drifting, motorless boat.

According to local officials and media reports, the four were found floating in the same general area, but not together. All were wearing diving flotation devices, and all apparently had wetsuits which conserve body heat except Brinkman. Authorities didn't provide a cause of death.

Bain was pulled from the water by a recreational boater, while the other two survivors were picked up by a Belize Defense Forces boat, which also recovered Brinkman's body.

Bain told The Associated Press that the divers tried to swim to land after their boat began drifting but could not make it. For some time, he stayed with the other male diver, but the two became separated.

On Monday, as night approached, he said he was depressed about spending another night adrift at sea.

"I was becoming resigned to another night, and didn't know, really, if I could make it," Bain said Tuesday. "Shortly thereafter, a catamaran pulled up and rescued me."

Source: abcnews.go.com


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