Blue Hole dive turns tragic

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 20, No. 9            March 4, 2010

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    The James couple arrived on Ambergris Caye for a nice Belizean vacation on Thursday, February 25th. However, March 1st proved to be one of the most tragic days for Dianne James, who now returns home to St. Peter’s, Missouri, USA, a widow.

    The couple decided to visit the great Blue Hole, it was one of 54-year-old Richard James’ and his lifelong dive buddy, Dennis Baker’s dream to dive the site. Dianne accompanied the group and snorkeled the famous sinkhole while Richard and Dennis dove. The day prior to their Blue Hole dive, Richard and Dennis had enjoyed two great dives outside the reef of Ambergris Caye. The two eagerly discussed their dive plans scheduled for the following day.

    The James’ had visited Belize in two separate occasions prior to this February trip. However, in both those occasions, they had visited the country on board a cruise ship which had a stop in the country. They both knew they wanted to return and spend a few days on the island, enjoying the sights while Richard indulged in his love for diving. For the past 13 years, the couple had been accompanied to various trips by Dennis and his wife. For approximately 12 of those 13 years, the two men had enjoyed a lovely kinship stemmed from each other’s love of the great underwater world.

    On that fateful Monday, the men carried out all their precautions for the 130 foot dive. “We made sure our equipment worked properly. We reached our maximum depth of 130 feet for eight minutes and had our safety stop prior to surfacing. Everything in the dive went well,” explained Dennis. However, shortly after resurfacing, Richard who held on to the ladder of the dive boat, removed his first fin and, “that is when I glanced at him and saw that he was having trouble removing his second fin,” stated Dennis. That is when personnel aboard the dive boat realized that Richard was having serious problems and worked on getting him out of the water and unto the boat.

    Dennis, a chiropractor by trade (Richard and he had the same profession), rushed out of the water and along with another diver aboard the boat who was a New York Emergency Room Doctor, worked on Richard, attempting to revive him. “I believe that he passed away a few seconds after we realized that he was in trouble,” he explained. The lifeless body of Richard was transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where it remains awaiting a post mortem examination.

    According to his wife Dianne, Richard had received a clean bill of health from his practitioner two weeks prior to their trip to Belize. “We wanted to make sure that he was healthy to take on the Blue Hole,” she stated. The only health condition that Richard suffered from and that his family knew about, was Diabetes. The post mortem results will reveal what led to the father of four’s death.

    “He was the friendliest man that I have ever met. He was my best friend and I will miss him dearly,” commented Dennis, “we know, though that he had a wonderful three day vacation. I guess when it’s your time, it’s your time.” Richard and Dianne celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary this year on Valentine’s Day.

    The avid Master Diver is survived by his wife Dianne James and the couple’s four children, Dr. Quinn, James, Kirk and Kent, along with his daughter in laws, Kelly and Rebecca and grandchildren.
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