Monroe County Sheriff's Office Dive Offense Report .pdf

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Dive Operation Report .pdf

Photos of one body being transferred from an FWC vessel to a Medical Examiner's vehicle, for transport to Key West

Click here to see pictures of the first sinking of the Spiegel Grove

March 19, 2007

Autopsies done on dead divers

Key West - The Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office performed autopsies on all three of the men who died Friday while diving inside the Spiegel Grove wreck offshore of Key largo.

According to the Medical Examiner's Office, preliminary autopsy results showed the three men all died of saltwater drowning.

Detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

March 18, 2007

Autopsies scheduled today and tomorrow; more details emerge from investigation

Key Largo - More details are emerging about the deadly dive which killed three divers offshore of Key Largo Friday. Autopsies of the three victims are scheduled today and tomorrow by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.

The survivor of the quartet who went diving together Friday morning, Howard Spialter, was initially thought to have been stationed outside the entrance to the wreck. Detective Mark Coleman says, after speaking with Spialter, he actually entered the wreck with the other divers. Spialter said they weren't sure where they were inside, but he thought he knew the right direction. As he ran low on air in his dive tanks, he tried to tell the others which way to go.They wouldn't listen.

"He went one way and they went the other," said Detective Mark Coleman. "He lived because he went the right way and got out." Spialter told the detective he grabbed the hand of one of the others, in an attempt to get him to follow. That is the last he saw of his friends.

Two other divers, from another dive boat, found Kevin Coughlin and pulled him out, but it was too late.

"At some point, Coughlin also started in the right direction to get out, but he didn't make it. We don't know what happened with him," said Detective Coleman. "Either he ran out of air before he got out, or he may have embolized in a section of the wreck where there is a long, steep ascent on the way out. We just don't know. Maybe the autopsy will be able to answer some of those questions, but we may never know the whole story."

And, detectives say, they still have much investigating to do. There are more people to talk to, equipment to examine, autopsy results to look at, all of which will be accomplished in coming weeks. An investigation such as this one cannot be concluded in a day or even two. It takes time, and information is always in flux.

"Sometimes, in the confusion of the initial stages of a case like this, information is released that may not turn out to be exactly what happened. In high profile cases, the media demands information quickly and continuously. We try to comply with their demands, even though we would prefer to wait and make sure all the t's are crossed and the i's dotted," said Deputy Becky Herrin, Public Information Officer for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

March 17, 2007 - 6:41 p.m.

Detectives investigate deaths

Key Largo - Monroe County Sheriff's Detectives are investigating the deaths of three divers who entered the wreck of the Spiegal Grove Friday and never came out.

Lead Detective Mark Coleman says he has discovered some reasons why this terrible tragedy may have occurred, besides the fact that the men were diving in an area of the ship not intended for such forays.

According to Detective Coleman:

Detective Coleman said when he interviewed Howard Spralter, the lone survivor of the group, he admitted they did not take all the safety precautions they should have to complete the dive.

"The divers who went in to recover the bodies said this portion of the ship has large amounts of silt built up inside," said Detective Coleman. "It doesn't take very much movement to kick that silt up and cause problems with your ability to see. Without a line to follow out, and with lots of silt in the water, it would have been virtually impossible for them to find their way out of the wreck," he said.

The Spiegel Grove is a popular dive spot off of Key Largo. The upper portions of the ship have many areas that have been prepared specifically for penetration dives with holes cut for ingress and egress, and markings on the walls showing clearly which ways to go. The portion of the ship these divers were in were lower down, where all the entrances were sealed to prevent entrance. It is unknown how the entrance they used was opened, but it was not intended for use as an entrance to the wreck.

The men's bodies have been transported to Key West and autopsies will be performed to determine the cause of their deaths. Assisting in the body recovery today was Key Largo Fire/Rescue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the United States Coast Guard.

March 17, 2007 - 4:41 p.m.

Recovery of bodies complete

Key Largo - Divers from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and Key Largo Fire/Rescue have completed their efforts to recover two deceased divers whose bodies were located deep inside the wreck of the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the United States Coast Guard are assisted in the efforts.

One body was brought to the surface just before noon and the second just before 4 p.m. Both of them were transported to the Islamorada Coast Guard Station. Both bodies are being transported to Key West so the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office can perform autopsies to determine the cause of their deaths.

All information about this incident is available on the Monroe County Sheriff's Office web site at www.keysso.net. That site also features photos of the U.S.S. Spiegel Grove as it was being sunk in 2002.

March 17, 2007 - 3 p.m. - Recovery of bodies continues

Key Largo - Divers from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and Key Largo Fire/Rescue are continuing their efforts to recover two deceased divers whose bodies are located deep inside the wreck of the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the United States Coast Guard are assisting in the efforts.

One body was brought to the surface just before noon and was transported to the Islamorada Coast Guard Station. The divers expect to recover the second body this afternoon. Both bodies will be transported to Key West so the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office can perform autopsies to determine the cause of their deaths.

Another press release will be issued when the second body is brought to shore. Later this afternoon, photos of the recovery will also be available. All information about this incident is available on the Monroe County Sheriff's Office web site at www.keysso.net. That site also features photos of the U.S.S. Spiegel Grove as it was being sunk in 2002.

March 17th - 9:30 a.m. - Four New Jersey divers from Spiegel Grove dive accident identified

Click here to see pictures of the sinking of the Spiegel Grove

Detectives say they have now notified families of the three divers who died while diving on the Spiegel Grove wreck off shore of Key Largo Friday.

The diver who surfaced safely from the dive is identified as Howard Spralter of Westfield, New Jersey (age not available); The diver who surfaced, but was pronounced dead on arrival at Mariner's Hospital is identified as 51 year old Kevin Coughlin of Chatham Borough, New Jersey; the two divers whose bodies are still trapped inside the wreck are identified as Scott Stanley (age not available) and 38 year old Jonathan Walsweer, both of Westfield, New Jersey.

Divers from Key Largo Fire/Rescue and from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office are en route to the wreck site this morning and will attempt

Accident note: At 8:22 p.m. Friday there was an accident in front of Babalus Southern Cafe on Big Coppitt Key involving a Ford Explorer and a pedestrian. The pedestrian was killed. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating.

March 16, 2007

Three die diving on the Spiegel Grove

Key Largo - Three divers are dead today after diving the wreck of the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo.

Four men from New Jersey were diving together off of the commercial dive vessel Scuba-Do, captained by Mark Cianciulli. They were reportedly advanced certified divers, who dove on the wreck the day before as well. They were reportedly intending to perform a penetration dive of the wreck when something apparently went wrong.

One of the divers was stationed at the entrance and the other three went inside. The one left outside the wreck began to run out of air, according to detectives, so he surfaced safely. Two divers from another boat surfaced with one diver who was in distress. That diver was taken on board a Coast Guard vessel where Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation was performed all the way into shore. Paramedics met the boat and transported the victim to Mariner's Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The two other divers did not surface and initial searches of the area failed to locate them. Just after 2 p.m., a dive team from Key Largo Fire Rescue that was searching the wreck located their bodies inside the wreck. According to detectives, the bodies are so deep inside, it will be extremely difficult to recover them. More divers from that team will be deployed to the wreck Saturday and will make another attempt at recovery.

Sheriff's Detective Mark Coleman is investigating the incident. Names of the divers are not being released pending notification of next of kin.