Scuba Company Employee Dies After Illness During Dive

An ailment that sent 45-year-old St. John resident Mary Davis to the hospital in December killed her on Saturday morning, March 24, after scuba diving at Hawksnest.

Davis, an employee of Cruz Bay Watersports, was diving with the company on her day off when the incident occurred.

“They were just making a normal dive at Hawksnest, and after 15 minutes in 30 feet of water, she motioned to the other divers that she was going to the surface,” said a Cruz Bay Watersports representative who asked not to be identified. “She made a normal ascent, and when she got to the surface, she signaled for help. The dive master on the vessel swam out and assisted her back to the platform.”

“She was conscious and breathing, but she was breathing heavily and had shortness of breath,” the representative added.

Doctors on Board
Four tourists — one doctor, one nurse practitioner and two veterinarians — were diving with the group.

“They made Mary comfortable on the boat, giving her oxygen, and she seemed to respond,” said the representative. “The doctor and nurse practitioner immediately took over her care, and all of a sudden they started CPR on her.”

Once the entire dive party was accounted for, the captain of the boat, James Lane, headed back for the Cruz Bay Creek, eight minutes from the dive site, according to a Virgin Islands National Park prepared statement.

Lane alerted Cruz Bay Watersports and asked to have an ambulance waiting at the dock. When approaching the harbor, Lane announced to all vessels to make way, and at 9:50 a.m., the dive boat SeaQuest docked at the Creek, according to the VINP statement.

Pronounced Dead at MKSCHC
“When we got into the Creek, the EMTs came aboard and took over,” said the Cruz Bay Watersports representative. “They worked on Mary for six to eight minutes before offloading her into the ambulance. They never missed a compression or breath; they were very good.”

Davis was taken to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, where Dr. Elizabeth Barot pronounced her dead at 10:35 a.m., according to the VINP statement.

The incident that led to Davis’ death was eerily similar to a December incident which landed her in the hospital for three days, explained the representative.

Pulmonary Edema
“Several months ago, she had an episode with us very similar to this one,” he said. “We were out diving, and when she got back on the boat, she had shortness of breath. We realized that whatever was going on inside her body wasn’t going to pass, so we sent her to Myrah Keating, which sent her to St. Thomas.”

Davis was released from R.L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas three days later with a diagnosis of exertion pulmonary edema, according to the Watersports representative.

Pulmonary edema is a buildup of fluid in the lungs that affects people who are overweight or suffer from heart disease. Davis was overweight and suffered from hypertension, according to the dive company rep, who recalled Davis having to take several prescription medications.

Davis was released from the hospital with permission to dive, explained the Cruz Bay Watersports representative.

Authorized To Return to Diving
“She was not really that healthy, but when she was released, they authorized her to continue to dive,” he said. “She had written proof allowing her to resume scuba diving.”

Although the dive company did not think it was in Davis’ best interests to continue diving after the December incident, she was adamant about returning to the sport, explained the Watersports representative.

“We really tried to talk her out of it, but she was just adamant about continuing on because she loved the underwater environment,” he said. “She dove with us 10 to 15 times since the incident with no problems.”

Davis could not have fallen ill in a better situation than she was in on March 24, explained the dive company rep.

“There were a doctor, a nurse practitioner and two veterinarians on board, plus two licensed captains and three scuba instructors,” he said. “There was oxygen aboard, and we are trained, professional people. Our entire staff is trained in oxygen administration and CPR.”

“She had everything in favor to save her,” he added.

Davis’ death affected everyone, from the tourists on board to the dive company employees, according to the Cruz Bay Watersports representative.

“It’s a sad thing for everyone involved,” he said. “The doctor on board was really upset. He said he felt he failed.”
“It really affected everybody deeply,” the Watersports rep added.

Davis, who was known to many on the island for her large dogs — a white American pit bull named Dudley and a pit bull adpoted from the Animal Care Center named Benny — will be remembered as a well-liked Cruz Bay Watersports employee who loved the underwater world.

“She dove every chance she got,” said the dive company representative. “She was well liked by everybody, and was great with customers. She was adamant about diving every chance that she had.”

“Diving Not for Everybody”
Although Davis was a good diver, she may not have been healthy enough to engage in the sport, explained the watersports company representative — a lesson the dive company representative hopes others take to heart.

“Diving is not for everybody,” he said. “Sometimes people are like Mary, who just fell in love with the sport, but perhaps it wasn’t for her. It caught up with her.”

Tho donate money for Davis’ cremation, contact Connie Joseph at 774-1625.