Award-winning Sharkwater film-maker and conservationist Rob Stewart came up from a deep dive too quickly, suffered hypoxia at the surface and subsequently drowned, according to the medical examiner for Florida’s Monroe County, Dr Thomas Beaver.
As reported in Scuba Diver at the time, 37-year-old Canadian Stewart died offshore from Islamorada at the end of January after surfacing from his third deep CCR dive of the day while filming for the latest Sharkwater documentary, and disappearing back beneath the water while the crew of his dive boat were assisting his dive buddy and instructor Peter Sotis, who had collapsed on exiting. An extensive three-day air and sea search was conducted, but eventually his body was found on the seabed close to where he initially disappeared. His family subsequently launched lawsuits against Sotis, his wife and their company Add Helium, and also Horizon Dive Adventures, who provided the charter dive boat.
Dr Beaver stated it was his opinion that both Sotis and Stewart suffered acute hypoxia at the surface, and that the latter lost consciousness and drowned, leading him to state the cause of death be best certified as ‘drowning with the manner of death classified as accident’.”
In the report, when Dr Beaver concluded that since they were using the same types of rebreathers with the same gas mixtures, and so likely suffered the same condition, he ruled out decompression sickness, saying that Sotis, on collapsing after exiting the water, was treated with oxygen and quickly recovered, requiring no further treatment and having no other symptoms.