LOS ANGELES (AP) — A scuba diver abandoned at sea for hours by a boat crew six years ago was awarded $1.68 million in damages, ending his legal battle against two Los Angeles County companies.
A Superior Court jury ruled for Daniel Carlock Friday in his lawsuit against Venice-based Ocean Adventures Dive Co. and Long Beach-based Sundiver Charters.
The jury heard testimony that Carlock, who was 45 at the time of the 2004 incident, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and developed skin cancer from exposure after floating in the ocean 12 miles off Long Beach, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Carlock, an aerospace engineer from Santa Monica, said he prayed to God not to let him die.
Carlock was eventually rescued after being spotted by Boy Scouts passing by on a boat.
He filed suit for negligence, infliction of emotional distress and fraud after the crew of the dive boat Sundiver left him in the water when he got separated from his diving buddy.
The Sundiver, carrying 20 divers, was near the oil rig Eureka when Carlock surfaced 400 feet from the vessel after having trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears.
Despite his absence, a dive master for Ocean Adventures marked him on the dive roster as present on the boat.
Then, to escape strong currents, the vessel moved to a second dive site 7 miles away. Once the Sundiver was there, Carlock was again marked on the roster as having taken a second dive, even though he was floating alone miles away.
After a 23-day trial, the jury assessed total damages in the negligence suit at $2 million. The panel then reduced Carlock’s award on the grounds that he was partly responsible because he had been told to surface closer to the boat.
“Dan has changed the industry’s safety standards so that other divers won’t be left out in the ocean and endure this kind of terror,” said Carlock’s attorney, Scott Koepke.
Koepke said industry standards had previously lacked specifics on how to count divers. “Now they have to have visual verification and redundancy,” he said. “And the dive boat captains, not just the dive masters, are responsible for the count.”
A man answering the telephone at Ocean Adventures said owner Stephen Ladd was unreachable because he was diving off Thailand. Sundiver Charters did not respond to messages.
“It has been an ordeal,” Carlock told the Times as he celebrated the award at a Newport Beach restaurant with his wife, Anne. “But I wanted to seek changes in the scuba industry. Others will benefit.”
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