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OSHA Cites Company Whose Divers Drowned In Intake Pipe

February 5, 1986

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Two divers who drowned while cleaning equipment at Florida Power Co.’s nuclear plant at Crystal River could have survived if they had been supplied the right equipment, federal safety officials say.

Divers Scott Wiker, 26, of St. Petersburg, and Timothy W. Boyle, 29, of Clearwater, died Jan. 10 when they were sucked into the cooling system at Crystal River by powerful pumps that pull 23,800 gallons of water a minute from the Gulf of Mexico to help cool the plant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday cited Dive- Tech International Inc., the Pinellas Park company that employed the divers, with six violations of workplace safety rules. The firm was fined nearly $5,000.

Florida Power officials have admitted the divers were not warned the pumps were operating, but OHSA did not cite the utility because Florida Power employees were not involved in the dive.

The agency found the utility contributed to the drownings by failing to shut down the underwater pumps, but also said that had the divers’ equipment met federal standards they would not have been sucked through an underwater pipe.

The divers should have been attached to lifelines; received their air supply from the surface rather than scuba tanks, and been attached to a voice communication line, said Lawrence J. Falck, OHSA area director.

Falck said that if the men had used the prescribed method, it was his ″personal opinion″ that they would not have drowned.

″If they had been line-tended properly they would not have been sucked into the pipe,″ he said. ″I believe all of them are common-sense practices of diving.″

Dive-Tech was also cited for failure to have a standby diver available and for the divers’ failure to wear an inflatable vest usually worn to permit easy ascent in an emergency.

Other violations included a failure by Dive-Tech to have a designated person at the scene who was in charge of all aspects of the dive, and the fact that the firm’s safe practices manual did not include a copy of OHSA diving requirements.

The safety agency also said Dive-Tech had no plan for removing an injured diver from the water.

Dive-Tech faced a maximum fine of $1,000 for each of the six violations. The amount was reduced to $810 for each violation because of the size of the company, which had seven employees before the accident.

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