Coroner probes Alberni scuba diving death

The B.C. Coroner is investigating the death of the Alberni scuba diver who died after getting tangled in a fishing net this week. The port authority has no policies about scuba diving or net setting in the area where the diver died.

Dan Watts

An investigation is underway into the death of a 42-year old scuba diver who died after being caught in a fishing net at Harbour Quay.

A B.C. coroner’s investigation may look at what the diver was aware of in the area, and his diving alone, Port Alberni RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Murray said.

An autopsy is scheduled to take place this week.

Emergency crews including the Canadian Coast Guard and the coast guard auxiliary responded to a call of a solo diver in distress at the quay at 8:50 p.m. on Sunday.

The man was pulled unconscious and not breathing from a fishing net, and was rushed to West Coast General Hospital where medical personnel pronounced him dead.

The family was expected to come forward with the man’s name by the end of the week. They had asked the RCMP not to publicly identify him until other family members were notified.

The man was an experienced diver and was diving alone when the accident happened, Murray said.

It’s not known how the man became entangled in the net, he added.

The net was from the aboriginal fishery currently underway and police and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are trying to find its owner, Murray said.

The net was set near the wharf behind the Port Boat House.

It was marked and had a visible buoy, Murray said.

It’s common to see nets set out in the area at this time of year, he added.

“You’ll have to talk to DFO about whether those issues need to be addressed.”

The Port Alberni Port Authority is responsible for the dock and pilings where the accident happened. But the PAPA has no policies with respect to scuba diving or fishing nets set near its infrastructure, harbour master Mark Braithwaite said.

“Anything to do with the fishery and nets is DFO,” he said.

“We haven’t had a complaint about them (fishing nets).”

When contacted by the News, DFO officials declined to answer questions about fishing nets set in an industrial area or whether the matter will be reviewed with local First Nations.

“…it would not be appropriate to comment on the issue  while the matter is under investigation,” DFO spokesperson Kirsten Rucker wrote in an e-mail reply.

There have been questions among fishermen about why the man was diving in the area, Tseshaht councillor Luke George said.

“But a man is dead, his family is hurting and now isn’t the time for that,” he said.

“There’s difficult feelings about this on all sides.”

Tribal regulations require that fishers use 40-fathom nets in the area where the accident happened, George said.

The nets have to be marked with an identifying tag and a buoy.

Nets can be deceiving though once they’re set.

“You can see the corkline above the surface, but you can’t see how the current and choppy water sways the webbing back and forth underneath,” he said.

“If your wrist watch, belt buckle, or your lifejacket gets snagged on the web then you’re caught.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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