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Angler charged after pulling up diver

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Angler charged after pulling up diver
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A biologist collecting data in 55 feet of water near the Western Dry Rocks last month was jerked to the surface by a fishermen apparently angry that her dive flag was in his fishing spot, according to law enforcement officials.

That fisherman, 74-year-old Donald A. Bamford of Stock Island, was arrested Wednesday on a misdemeanor battery charge after a monthlong investigation by state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Alison Johnson, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Research Institute, was collecting data on the mutton snapper spawn on the seafloor just south of the Western Dry Rocks on May 9 when Bamford grabbed her dive flag and used the line to drag her topside in less than a minute, said State Attorney's Office investigator Franklin Cohens.

Johnson told Bamford she needed to decompress, but witnesses said the fisherman began arguing with her about ruining his fishing spot, said Coast Guard Investigative Service Resident in Charge Paul Shultz.

Eventually, Johnson convinced Bamford to release the line so she could dive and decompress, but by that time she was suffering from a severe headache and made her way back to a FWC research boat, where fellow scientists treated her en route to shore, Cohens said.

Johnson was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center, where she was treated and released.

The Coast Guard told the FWC that Johnson was in state waters, which puts the case under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney's Office. FWC officers asked that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, become involved because the incident involved a FWC employee, said NOAA Fisheries Special Agent Kenneth Blackburn.

Johnson, who works out of the FWC's Marathon Marine Research Institute office, said she was not authorized to discuss the case.

Bamford, who is charged with misdemeanor battery, was released from the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island at 10 p.m. Wednesday after posting $2,000 bail, according to Sheriff's Office records.

Bamford has one other violation, according to Clerk of Court records. He was cited for careless operation of a vessel in April 2011 and paid a fine.

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  • Lobstercatcher229Lobstercatcher229 Posts: 4,845 Captain
    Interesting story! I have had my dive flag pulled on by a law enforcement officer who then said that I should not be diving where I was (in a channel). Maybe I should have charged him with battery! :shrug
  • The Cat's EyeThe Cat's Eye Posts: 1,604 Captain
    I have been diving for 51 years and I would never tie a dive flag float to my person. That is just asking for trouble. Not only could you get pulled up by some moron, but a passing boat might not see the flag and you might be for a fast ride to the surface. Use a weight and carry it along, or rig a break away tether.
  • TriplecleanTripleclean Posts: 6,570 Admiral
    Why didn't she cut the line? Well I guess she was stupid enough to tie off to herself in the first place. The whole gang seems a mess, her drive boat was there ? where was her dive buddy ? Some of these scienctists dont seem like safe divers?

    Say Cats Eye, would you have gone back down if you have gone back down if you had the gas for it? I think there is a chamber down there.
  • The Cat's EyeThe Cat's Eye Posts: 1,604 Captain
    Well, if I was repetitive diving and pushed my computer a tad over into the red, by mistake, I might be inclined, but only if my surface interval was super brief. (The experts say this should be avoided). Secondly, I probably would not have enough air left in my tank, to make that work. However, a small women using a full 80 ci tank might be able to pull it off. If the female diver above was intentionally pushing her computer into the red, she need to go back to dive school. IMO.

    BTW I have never made a decompression dive, but have taken many safety stops after deep dives. I'm not a technical diver, but have done my share of solo dives on air.
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