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Lawsuit filed over scuba-diving death

Thu., Dec. 18, 2008, 3:26 p.m.

The wife of a Spokane stockbroker who drowned in a scuba diving accident in March has filed a damage suit in Spokane County Superior Court against Scuba Center of Spokane and its owner-instructor, Daniel Arteaga.

The suit was filed Tuesday by Maureen Maher-Gray, the widow of John W. Gray. She is the personal representative for her late husband’s estate, according to court documents.

It seeks unspecified damages for claims of negligence, gross negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

Neither Arteaga nor his attorney immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment.

John and Maureen Gray, who were “totally inexperienced dive students,” enrolled in a scuba diving class at Scuba Center of Spokane on Feb. 6, says the suit, filed by Spokane attorney Robert Dunn.

After completing initial training and skill tests in Spokane, the Grays and 15 other student divers went to Hood Canal for an open water dive on March 29.

The suit alleges the Spokane diving company acted in a “reckless manner” in taking the group of scuba diving students, including the Grays, to dive on Hood Canal in western Washington.

During his initial dive in water with “extremely poor visibility,” John Gray experienced “mask squeeze” at about 10 feet, causing his nose to bleed, the suit says. An assistant instructor helped him to shore, where he complained of pain in his right eye and was out of breath.

He returned for an afternoon dive session where the student divers were formed into a “flying V” formation, with the lead instructor on the point, the suit says.

During the second descent, Gray and two assistant dive instructors became separated from the other divers. The suit says another diver in the area, not affiliated with the scuba school, saw Gray and believed he was giving the distress signal.

When that diver could not locate the dive group, the suit says he began to return to shore when he spotted Gray not breathing, with his regulator hanging out of his mouth, lying on the ocean floor.

The diver immediately filled Gray’s buoyancy compensator with air and assisted in getting him to shore, where resuscitation efforts failed.

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