Scuba company has history of violations

A Little River scuba business that was running the trip when a Massachusetts woman died has a history of violating basic rules with the United States Coast Guard.

On July 24th, Karen Murphy, 43, died while diving on a Coastal Scuba vessel off the coast of Little River.

USCG records obtained by NewsChannel 15 show at least five violations and one other death, of which they were not at fault, that occurred since 2004.

On May 12, 2011, Coast Guard officers issued a violation to Coastal Scuba for failure to have proper documentation on a vessel.

In the incident report, a Coast Guard officer asked the boat's master to allow inspectors to board their vessel. The master reportedly told the officer, "We are fishing...Do you really want us to stop fishing?," the report says.

The officer said the master reluctantly complied to the Coast Guard boarding for an inspection.

When the officer noticed there were three small children on the deck not wearing life preservers, he instructed one of the boat workers to put life jackets on the children, the report says.

The boat's master told the officer he had not heard of this law, referring to children having to be in a Coast Guard approved life jacket while on deck, according to the report.

On August 29, 2011, the Coast Guard gave a notice of violation to Coastal Scuba for discharging 25 gallons of diesel fuel into the Intracoastal Waterway, a report says. According to the report, one of Coastal Scuba's vessels was leaking fuel into the navigable waters.

On May 13, 2008, Coast Guard officers issued a failure to be in full compliance with the terms of the Certificate of Inspection when operating with passengers on board, according to records. The report says Coastal Scuba employees were swapping lifesaving equipment between two of their vessels and did not have properly functioning equipment onboard upon a random inspection.

On August 28, 2004, the Coast Guard issued two violations to Coastal Scuba. One was for failing to have stability letter issued before one of their vessels was placed in service or having the information placed on the Certificate of Inspection or Load Line Certificate. The other violation was for operating a small passenger vessel without a valid US Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection on board.

In 2005, a woman died while diving with Coastal Scuba. The company was not found at fault for her death. The report says Beth Moore went scuba diving with Coastal Scuba, came back up to the boat and collapsed on board.

In the most recent incident in May, involving Karen Murphy, two witnesses told NewsChannel 15 Coastal Scuba's crew failed to act during her death.

One witness told NewsChannel 15 while she and a friend were trying to save Murphy's life on the boat, the divers Murphy had been diving with were still underwater.

The witness also said the medical equipment on board was faulty, with dry rotted emergency oxygen masks on board.

As for the tanks that attach to it, the witness said the first was empty and an employee threw the other overboard for fear that it was going to explode.

A dive master onboard the vessel the day of Murphy's death told NewsChannel 15 he helped with CPR because there was no emergency oxygen available.

"I was just extremely surprised that there was not a working O2 on the vessel," he said. "We've been taught in training that O2 can be a big benefit. Would it have been a benefit in that situation? I cannot say whatsoever."

The Horry County Coroner's Office sent the tank they used to try to revive Murphy to the Navy for inspection. That is standard.

Four witnesses that we have spoken with in the past have been told to keep quiet while the Coast Guard's investigation is still ongoing.

They say Coastal Scuba sent a letter to three of them threatening to pursue defamatory action if Coastal Scuba is not found at fault for Murphy's death.

The dive master was told by the certification board, PADI, to stay quiet during the investigation.

We'll let you know when the investigation wraps up.