Two dead, one injured in dive school tragedy

Two dead, one injured in dive school tragedy

Police Dive Squad members search for the missing diver.

The body of a South Auckland diver who went missing in North Shore’s Lake Pupeke on Friday has been found.

Daniel Waata Stoneham, 33, disappeared while on a training programme with an instructor and six other students.

The training exercise also claimed the life of 37-year-old Tyron North, and injured a third student.

Mr Stoneham’s body was found in 53 metre-deep water about 100 metres from the shore on the southern side of the lake, police said.

North Shore police spokesman Kevin Loughlin told NZPA the police divers were aided by the latest equipment, including sonar, as they worked in the challenging environment.

Mr Stoneham and Mr North were part of a training dive team from Tauranga-based outdoor education provider Adventure Education.

The company’s general manager Sharon Sutherland said earlier the company was “shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy.”

“This is a very difficult time for everyone involved. Our focus right now is on supporting the friends and family of these two men.”

The dive group was attending an Adventure Education course run by South Auckland company Helix Training Ltd.

Ms Sutherland said the divers were nearing the end of their programmes, which ran four-five months, and were working towards their tertiary diving qualifications.

The Department of Labour and Police are investigating.


There is so much about this tragedy that does not add up. These were not inexperienced divers. They were nearing the end of a five month course.

They were close to shore with an instructor in the water and more onshore. Helix Training Ltd would have had a comprehensive hazard management system for their dive school field trips. Did they have a separate hazard management system for their freshwater classes on Lake Pupeke than their saltwater trips that they usually ran?

Where the inductions done differently? Where the students made aware of the very different conditions they would be encountering in the lake?

For two students to die and one hospitalised there must have been a major systems or equipment failure. It is very difficult to drown when diving. Especially at the depths that the students were operating, the lack of currents and the level of supervision they had.

If a diver encounters difficulties they can release their weight belt and tank and they will float to the surface. To drown they would need to get caught in an underwater snag or have a major gear failure. It may be possible for one diver to get into difficulties, but three?

The facts as they are known at the moment point to a major defect in the companies health and safety systems. Obviously the police and Department of Labour investigations will uncover the truth. It won’t bring the men back but at least the lesson learnt might save other lives.

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