A diver with the Jupiter company Emerald Charters reported himself and six others missing last week after losing sight of the boat, a sheriff’s report says.
The diver used a submersible portable VHF radio to make the call, which was picked up by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office marine unit at about 3:30 p.m. on June 21.
According to the report, the ocean was “extremely rough” and the diver said he could not find the boat.
Deputies confirmed with Emerald that seven divers, who were eventually picked up by Sea Tow, were missing about 3 miles off Jupiter.
Emerald Charters also called to report the divers missing, according to the Coast Guard. No one was injured, according to the sheriff’s report.
The sheriff’s office and Coast Guard were involved in the search, but Sea Tow found them first.
“We heard the captain of the dive boat calling for help,” said Sea Tow owner Will Beck. “If we are free and available and close by, we get involved.”
It is the second time in a month that divers with Emerald Charters were separated from their boat. On May 24, seven divers were picked up off the coast after they became separated from the dive boat.
A man who answered the phone number listed for Emerald Charters did not want to comment.
But at least one dive operator said it is easy for a boat to lose divers when they are drift diving in rough waters. Drift diving is a common practice where the vessel drops off divers in one spot and follows the current to pick them up at another location.
The National Weather Service in Miami said it forecast 2 to 4-foot seas for June 21 with occasional 5-foot seas.
“I think it’s just bad luck on their part,” said Ken Ward, a master instructor with The Scuba Club in North Palm Beach. “The boat does what it can to stay in the area. Sometimes people, especially inexperienced divers, will swim off.”
When asked if the Coast Guard was investigating the incidents, a spokesman said it collects “data for trend analysis.”
“Upon discovery of a trend of unsafe operations, the Coast Guard will work with all partners to reduce the hazard and/or mitigate the risk involved,” said Petty Officer Jonathan Lally of Coast Guard public affairs.