About the Bill

BACKGROUND: DEATH of STEPHEN E. BENAVIDEZ

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Because of the grave concerns surrounding the death of Stephen E. Benavidez (55 yrs.) during a recreational dive within 5 miles off the coast of Florida on April 3, 2014, we are seeking legislative action to safeguard and protect divers from negligence of the dive companies and crew who sell recreational dives and equipment to the public.

Known facts are limited.  But one fact is abundantly clear from reports and the investigation: The dive company sent Mr. Benavidez down on his second dive of the day with little or no oxygen in his tank.  Ultimately, the lack of oxygen after descent to roughly 60 feet resulted in a heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and the subsequent death of Mr. Benavidez.  A leading sports cardiologist made a statement that Mr. Benavidez would NOT have suffered a fatal arrhythmia were in not for being oxygen deprived.  Mr. Benavidez reportedly surfaced 30 feet from the boat alive, in obvious distress, and calling for help 4 to 5 minutes into the dive. We believe Mr. Benavidez, perhaps, would still be alive were in not for the events and poor response that transpired that day.

Of upmost concern regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Stephen Benavidez: The question how/why Mr. Benavidez was sent down with an empty tank.  This most poignant question has yet to be answered.  We have met incredible resistance in attempting to attain an answer.

Additional Questions/Concerns:

1: Why was Mr. Benavidez — who surfaced without ballast, under his own effort, with essentially no air, and in evident distress, yelling for help — not rescued promptly and properly resuscitated?  Instead, Mr. Benavidez was left by the captain and other witnesses/staff on the boat, to float 200 feet from the boat; he ultimately sunk about 40 feet to his death; there was no water in his lungs; thus, he was no longer breathing when he sunk.

2: Why, if there was no AED on board and the incident was within Coast Guard jurisdiction, did the boat and dive crew not signal the Coast Guard for assistance?  Were significant safety-oriented policy and procedures violated or ignored in this case?  We feel strongly that either the crew failed to follow existing critical procedures (were therefore negligent) OR existing policy and procedures, safety regulations and important public safety measures are in need of serious review and repair as it pertains to recreational scuba diving.

In short, details of the event have led several family members as well as legal professionals to question whether basic and appropriate safety protocols and procedures were followed during the events that transpired April 3, 2014 resulting in the death of Mr. Benavidez.  Unfortunately, our efforts and the efforts of a legal representative to attain more information surrounding his death (and the deaths of other victims of similar incidents with the same dive company and on the same boat) have be thwarted by a waiver signed by Mr. Benavidez prior to the dive excursion.  The waiver allows for “gross negligence…whether active or passive…resulting in death.”  We believe the waiver, itself, is unlawful (or unconstitutional) and in need of review.

In the interest of the recreational public and in a desire to effect change to ensure public safety with respect to recreational diving, we, the Benavidez family, humbly ask for your assistance in attaining further information and in drafting whatever changes are necessary in this industry to ensure the safety of future divers in the care of commercial dive companies and boat crews.  We are personally invested in inciting and ensuring whatever positive changes are necessary in loving memory of Steve, an incredible man by every account.

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