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Widow of drowned diver sues Spokane’s Scuba Center

Fri., Dec. 19, 2008

Stockbroker died in March during excursion to Hood Canal

The wife of a Spokane stockbroker who drowned in a scuba diving accident in March is suing Scuba Center of Spokane and its owner-instructor, Daniel Arteaga.

Maureen Maher-Gray, the widow of John W. Gray, filed the damage suit Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Maher-Gray is the personal representative for her late husband’s estate, according to court documents.

The lawsuit 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, according to the lawsuit, 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 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 lawsuit says. An assistant instructor helped him reach shore, where he complained of pain in his right eye and was out of breath.

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

During their 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 bottom.

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

Bill Morlin can be reached at (509) 459-5444 or billm@spokesman.com.


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