On January 3 of this year, a 53-year-old Woodstock, Illinois, resident named James Bakazan joined a scuba diving trip departing from the commercial diving vessel Dream off the coast of Key West. His intention was to explore the Vandenberg shipwreck, scuttled and serving as an artificial reef that provides an ecosystem for aquatic species in the area.
However, Bakazan never returned from the trip. According to one of the four other divers who were with him, Bakazan was seen rapidly making his way toward the surface suddenly and without any distress signals. When another diver attempted to pursue him, he submerged again before they could reach him, disappearing from sight.
The Monroe County Sheriff's dive team was called in to lead the search of the area around the Vandenberg wreck, about seven miles off the shores of Key West, where Bakazan was last seen. Local commercial and amateur divers joined in the search, along with Coast Guard patrol boats and representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Technical divers searched the area inside the sunken ship to no avail. Meanwhile, low visibility and strong currents surrounding the boat made the police search harrowing and unproductive.
Eventually, all search avenues were exhausted, and the search was called off by the police on January 6, with Bakazan presumed dead. His was the second diving-related death in the area in less than a week.
The captain of the Dream was surprised by Bakazan's disappearance, stating that the visibility and weather conditions were "good" at the time.
When engaging in commercial diving activities, it is critical to invest in commercial diving insurance that allows companies to act decisively in situations like this one. Contact Fisk Marine Insurance for more information.