Saturday, June 20, 2009

New England Dive Community Suffers 7th Death in 7 Years

Every scuba diving death is tragic for our sport, but what are divers to make of this apparent trend emerging from the New England dive community?

Seven deaths in seven years is more than a cause for concern. The latest being Paul Blanchette, a 37-year veteran of our beloved sport.

In the small, close-knit circle of deep-sea divers in New England, Paul Blanchette was a star. He had made 57 trips to survey the sunken luxury liner Andrea Doria, and last fall he was one of the first divers to reach the wreck of the steamship Portland, located in water 460 feet deep on Stellwagen Bank.


But an hour after he slipped into the cold waters off the coast of Gloucester on May 18, fellow crew members began to worry. Thirty minutes later, David Cunningham dived into the water with other divers and searched the bottom for their colleague. A day later, Blanchette’s body was found just yards from the wreck.

He became the seventh scuba diver who has died in waters off Gloucester and Rockport since 2002. The lure of easy access to beaches and the chance to swim among exotic fish while grabbing a lobster or two for dinner have made Cape Ann the most popular diving site in New England.

But Blanchette’s death has many in the New England diving community wondering how such an experienced diver lost his life during a routine excursion. They are eager to hear the official cause of death from state officials investigating.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with Blanchette's family and friends.

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