Diving instructor fined after tragic death of student off East Lothian coast

A diving instructor has been fined for breaking health and safety rules after the tragic death of a trainee while diving off the coast of East Lothian.

Ashley Roberts, 29, was training William Peace and Richard Heppell for a 148-foot dive on the wreck of a German submarine landing three miles off the coast of Dunbar which sank in 1916.

Mr Peace, 59, and Mr Heppell were attending a closed-circuit rebreather diving course run by Roberts which is more technical than scuba diving and allows divers to go deeper.

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But during the July 8, 2017 dive, Mr. Peace encountered difficulty at a depth of 130 to 144 feet and quickly became unresponsive.

Mr Heppell attempted to rescue his stricken companion but was forced to return to the surface for his own safety.

Mr. Peace’s body was then recovered by police divers using sonar equipment on August 30, 2017.

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the tragedy found Roberts, of Birstall, West Yorkshire, had failed to conduct a proper assessment of students’ skills prior to the dive.

The HSE investigation revealed that although an evaluation dive was performed, it was not sufficient to measure the ability of the divers and should have been performed at a depth well below 45m.

There was also no verification of the number of rebreather hours Mr. Peace had completed during his previous dives or verification of the rescue capability of each diver.

Roberts, the sole director of the now dissolved Ash Roberts Technical Limited, appeared before Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week, where he pleaded guilty to violating Sections 3 (1) and 37 (1) of the Act of 1974 on occupational health and safety.

The court heard that an autopsy had revealed that Mr. Peace, of Markinch, Fife, was suffering from “significant coronary heart disease” at the time of his death.

In a written decision, Sheriff Roderick Flinn said the company’s failures included “a failure to verify the current skill levels of both divers, as opposed to simply their previously achieved training levels” and “a failure to do an appropriate assessment of the rescue capacity of each diver ”.

It was also found that the dive company did not “follow the accepted practice that an evaluation dive must take place at a depth significantly below the limit 2 of the diver’s existing rating – in this case it is suggested, no more than 20 meters ”.

Sheriff Flinn said: ‘As stated above, these failures did not cause or contribute to the injury or death of anyone, although they undoubtedly came to light following M’s death. . Peace.

“The autopsy report notes Mr. Peace’s significant coronary artery disease.

“Death by drowning could neither be confirmed nor excluded. Mr. Peace’s death has been certified as “diving death in man with coronary heart disease”.

“I am convinced that despite the delay in bringing this matter to court, the accused fully cooperated with the police, gave prompt instructions to his agent and accepted a plea as soon as the detailed terms of this plea were adjusted by those who advise it.

“On that basis, he should get the full third-party discount.

“As a result, that brings out a final figure, for a financial penalty, of £ 2,300. I will impose a fine of this amount and invite representations as to the time limit for payment. “

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Dive Inspector Alister Wallbank said: “It was a very traumatic incident for all involved and a tragedy for William Peace and his family.

“Mr. Roberts was responsible for the appropriate level of assessment, training and supervision.

“Mr. Roberts’ conduct during the pre-dive and assessment stages exposed William Peace and his co-student to greater risks to their health and safety than could otherwise have been the case.”

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