Crime

Two indicted for manslaughter in 2011 Key Largo dive death

Two men have been indicted for manslaughter in the December 2011 death of a novice scuba diver during a boat sinking off Key Largo.

Christopher Jones, 50, and Alison Gracey, 47, both of the United Kingdom, were arrested June 5 in St. Maarten when a federal indictment was unsealed.

Aimee Rhoads, 36, a mental-health counselor from Federal Way, Wash., died after being trapped beneath a hard deck cover in a forward area of the 25-foot boat. Rhoads was on the boat to make her first-ever ocean dive.

Gracey and Jones face charges of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Jones could face a 10-year prison sentence and Gracey could be sentenced to eight years.

"The defendants operated a commercial dive charter boat called Get Wet. The alleged unlawful and careless manner in which the defendants operated the boat caused the death of an individual scuba diver," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.

"Additionally, the indictment alleges that the defendants knowingly and willingly made a false statement to the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center about the boat's ownership," the release says.

Accounts of the Dec. 18, 2011, death at Molasses Reef say as winds increased, water came flooding in through "exposed" hatches at the stern of the boat.

"The exposed hatches combined with weather conditions allowed the vessel to take on a lot of water very fast," a U.S. Coast Guard investigator told the Keynoter in 2011.

When the boat started to move, the water shifted and the boat began to sink stern-first.

Another passenger, Amit Rampurkarl, 30, of New York, and Rhoads reportedly were trapped in the forward section of the boat by a hard deck cover used for seating.

Rampurkarl was injured and admitted to a hospital. Four other passengers and two crew members of the boat survived without serious injury.

The Get Wet operated out of the Key Largo Scuba Shack, which opened in a bayside Key Largo motel in mid-2010.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the extradition of Gracey and Jones from St. Maarten, a Dutch territory.

  Comments