By Ryan Yousefi
By Chuck Strouse
By Terrence McCoy
By Terrence McCoy
By Terrence McCoy
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Michael E. Miller
The late-October sun was still asleep as Lawrence Allen and Tania Figuerola set out for the Keys and talked about things that only lovers know. They discussed their relationship, how in a giddy seven months they had reached profound depths of intimacy usually reserved for characters in romance novels. And they reveled in the possibilities the future held. How, in a matter of months, with Allen's two children in college and Figuerola's own divorce well in the past, it might be a good time to start a family of their own.
Since their chance meeting at an American Cancer Society fund-raising party, the two had been inseparable as they explored their new relationship and Miami. Allen, then 47 years old and a personal-injury lawyer, and Figuerola, a 31-year-old ultrasound technician at Larkin General Hospital in South Miami, found in each other a common desire for new experience. Where a night at the movies would satisfy another couple, Allen and Figuerola would trot off to a psychic fair or spend a night in a lighthouse. "We were also really into fitness," adds Allen. "She would do aerobics five times a week, I work out about four times a week. We were an active couple."
This thirst for adventure and physical activity led the two on their early-morning expedition to scuba dive from a charter boat off Islamorada. Allen was newly certified, having taken a six-week scuba course at Miami-Dade Community College. The Islamorada dive was to be his first dive since his certification, and Figuerola's third in the six years since her certification.
The lovers' conversation only briefly touched on the dive ahead, but Allen was slightly apprehensive about it. The previous week Figuerola had joined him during his final two certification dives and fumbled some basic techniques. Not only did she have buoyancy problems and take a long time to enter the water, but she also experienced two bloody noses because she had trouble clearing her sinuses. "Going back in the boat, I was mad as hell," remembers Allen. "I said, `Are you nuts? You need a refresher course! I'm not going to dive with you until you take a refresher course!'"
During the week, Figuerola took a private class with an instructor, whom Allen phoned the following Saturday. According to Allen, the instructor told him Figuerola was "petrified" to take off her mask underwater and hadn't been allowed out of the swimming pool until she did it. However, the instructor reassured Allen that Figuerola was otherwise competent and should go diving as soon as possible to reaffirm her skills. With that encouragement, the neophyte divers immediately booked the diving trip at Lady Cyana Divers dive shop in Islamorada, and headed south the next morning for the 7:30 dive.
With rented equipment from Lady Cyana Divers, the pair joined about seventeen other divers, including Figuerola's refresher instructor, Don Stelzen, aboard the Lady Cyana III dive boat. Stelzen was taking a group of dive students on their open-water dive for certification. A 25-minute ride brought the boat to Davis Ledge, a 25-foot-deep, 400-foot-long swathe of coral and a popular dive spot for boats out of Islamorada. Having been apprised of the water conditions by the captain - surf temperature 82 degrees, slight southerly current, one-foot swells - the divers splashed in two by two and disappeared into the azure depths. Figuerola and Allen took their time donning their dive equipment and were the last in, several minutes behind the others. "I'm trying to be super calm about everything," Allen explains. "You want to act like you know what's going on. When you go diving you don't want to look like a fool."
Their dive began poorly. Only this time it wasn't Figuerola who was having problems, it was her partner. Because Allen was wearing a new full-body wet suit for the first time, he had incorrectly calibrated the amount of weight he needed for his weight belt and was unable to submerge himself. An unsympathetic captain refused to give him additional weight for his belt, he says, and Figuerola had to pull him down by his leg.
Once at the bottom, Figuerola and Allen were alone and headed off in a random direction, with Figuerola holding Allen by her hand so he wouldn't float to the surface. Twenty-five minutes passed quickly as the two novices swam along the reef wall, pointing out coral and fish to each other.
Suddenly, Allen recalls, the divers were caught in some underwater turbulence that knocked them together clumsily and disturbed their tranquil perusal of the reef. "We got shoved to one side, then shoved the other way, and I'm getting nauseous and feeling weak and I'm ready to throw up," remembers Allen. He checked their air supplies: Figuerola's had depleted from an initial reading of 3600 pounds per square inch to nearly 1000 psi, while his gauge read 700 psi, down from 3200 psi. Still, Allen figured he had plenty of air to get back. With hand signals, they agreed to head back to the boat, although neither knew in which direction to go. Figuerola inflated her buoyancy compensator - an inflatable life vest - and Allen, because of his natural buoyancy, simply let go of his girlfriend's hand and drifted upward.
The divers surfaced in four-foot swells, Allen says. The current had become perceptibly stronger. They also discovered that the boat was farther away than he'd thought it would be; in recollection, Allen figures it was between 60 to 100 yards away. Worse still, they had drifted down-current, a diving taboo. Tired, with diminishing air supplies, they faced a long swim against a heavy current in rough water. At that point, Allen says, he switched to his snorkel - a basic procedure when a diver surfaces - and swam at a moderate pace for about a half-minute.
When he stopped to check on Figuerola, he discovered her about twenty feet behind him. "There she was, on the surface, kicking and swimming away with the regulator still in her mouth. She looked good. My first thought was, `What's she doing back there?' I was very surprised she wasn't beside me." But looking at the boat, Allen began to doubt their ability to cover the distance. "My fear was that the two of us were going to look like real asses, and they were going to have to retrieve us," he says. "I also knew I wasn't going to go an inch further until she had caught up."
But as Allen bobbed in the swells, he lost sight of Figuerola. "I thought she was swimming toward me underwater to avoid these swells. It was like a roller coaster. Up and down. Up and down. And I'm waiting for her to arrive. Then all of a sudden, Don [Stelzen] and a diver from the boat are there, and someone says, `Where's your buddy?' I said, `I don't know. She's swimming toward me underwater.'" Stelzen instructed Allen to hand over his equipment and pull himself along a rope to the Lady Cyana III. A minute later he was puking over the side of the dive boat as a smaller dive boat that had been anchored nearby skimmed over the water toward Islamorada with the limp body of Tania Figuerola on board.
Figuerola was pronounced dead at Mariner's Hospital in Tavernier an hour later. A Monroe County investigation into the death, completed in mid-January, revealed that Figuerola had run out of air and sunk to the bottom. Divers from the Lady Cyana III had discovered her lying face-down on the sea bed; an autopsy found her lungs full of water and blood - an indication of drowning. "I'll never forget the last thing Don said before we went in," Allen remarks. "He says, `Well, guys. You're both certified, you don't need me, you're on your own. It's a fun dive. Have a fun dive.'" Allen pauses, letting the irony of the words sink in. "That's the expression he used. It still echoes in my head. It hurts."
Despite the fact that it was declared an accident, Figuerola's death strikes the close-knit professional scuba community in its Achilles tendon. Accident and death are remaining constant as the number of certified divers soars, but many scuba industry experts are increasingly concerned that safety standards need improvement. No one was found criminally negligent in Tania Figuerola's death, yet the accident raises questions about inexperienced divers, equipment quality, the efficacy of certification programs, and a competitiveness that has motivated some instructors, dive-boat operators, and scuba retailers to compromise safety in the interest of profit.
In the Fifties and Sixties, during the heady early days of scuba diving, underwater exploration was only for the strong and the slightly insane. Like mountain climbing, it was a specialized endeavor that dropped man into an unnatural environment and demanded his respect for the greater forces of nature. But improved equipment and greater knowledge of scuba has demystified the sport and opened to the masses perhaps the last great frontier on earth. Now hundreds of thousands of people make millions of dives every year in the U.S. By some estimations, about one-third of those dives take place in South Florida. "It's turned into an industry and a novelty and it's no longer a sport," remarks Miami dive-boat captain Chuck Norwich, who made his first dive in 1952. "It's big time, baby. Big money in it."
Just how big is the money? Bob Holston, president of the National Scuba Retailers Association, estimates that Florida alone boasts a one-billion-dollar-per-year dive-travel industry, generated in part by about 500 dive shops. And most of that business takes place between Miami and Key West. Much of the industry's growth has occurred since the early Seventies, when there were no more than 150 dive shops in the state, says Spencer Slate, chairman of the Florida Association of Dive Operators. (As a further indication of diving's rise in popularity, the number of instructional centers for training instructors in Florida has risen from one in 1974 to about six today, according to Slate.)
All this growth has further decentralized an already amorphous industry that answers only to itself. Governmental involvement in the scuba industry is almost nonexistent, and dive operators want to keep it that way. "The more the government stays out of it, the better it is," declares Doug Austin, manager of Austin's Diving Center in Kendall, echoing the sentiments of most of his colleagues. "The way government is, they screw up half the things they get involved in."
Oversight within the scuba industry is provided by an array of regional, state, national, and international organizations that regulate themselves. About a half-dozen leading instructional agencies, under the aegis of the national Recreational Scuba Training Council, dictate the minimum standards of diving instruction and certification in the United States. Each organization polices its own agents around the world to ensure the quality of instruction and instructional equipment. If an instructor is not up to snuff in the eyes of the instructional agency he represents, he may be dropped.
While there's no law preventing anyone from starting his own independent scuba academy, a scuba certification card from that academy would carry about as much currency as Monopoly money. Most scuba retailers or dive-boat operators require a diver to show his certification card before renting or buying equipment, or before going on a charter dive. And rarely do operators recognize anything but the top ten or so U.S. certification programs and the leading overseas programs.
The dive-charter boats must contend with the government only insofar as other boats-for-hire adhere to U.S. Coast Guard regulations. But voluntary charter-boat safety standards as they relate specifically to scuba diving are established by various autonomous dive-operator groups, such as the Florida Association of Dive Operators. Voluntary safety guidelines for retailers are similarly dictated by such groups. As for the tools of the trade, all the major equipment manufacturers belong to the national Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association, which sets quality level and inspection schedules.
With few mandatory rules, the diving industry finds its moral and ethical backbone in the widespread fear of litigation. However, the pickings for personal-injury lawyers are remarkably slim. In 1990, for instance, 91 U.S. citizens died while scuba diving, 22 in Florida, according to the Divers Alert Network, which compiles an annual report on diving accidents and fatalities. The same year, 738 U.S. citizens suffered decompression illness, which results from staying down too long or rising to the surface too quickly. (The illness can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, weakness, and even paralysis.) About half of those accidents occurred in the Caribbean and the southeastern states, including Florida. "There aren't that many scuba-related lawsuits," says Fort Lauderdale attorney Kevin Malone, one of several plaintiff's lawyers in South Florida who specialize in diving litigation. "At any given time, I might have two to five cases going on. It's about five percent of my practice." Almost all his scuba cases involve diving deaths.
Tom Mount, an underwater cinematographer and a pioneer in the rigorous sport of cave diving, says the low numbers are an indication of the industry's ability to monitor itself. "Most sports that regulate themselves - like mountain climbing - have acceptable accident records," he says, voicing a familiar anti-government theme among divers. "Better than having a bunch of government bureaucrats who don't know what they're talking about telling you what to do."
But there's nothing like a scuba death to rattle the industry's self-confidence. And that's exactly what Tania Figuerola's tragedy did. Even though many in the diving world have concluded that Figuerola was ultimately responsible for her own demise, her death has driven several of those involved to run for cover behind lawyers and has forced the industry to take an even closer look at itself.
According to detective Corey Bryan, who investigated Figuerola's death for the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, the victim drowned after running out of air. "It appeared that she was having trouble," he remarks. "She apparently got really tired, didn't drop any equipment, and never put a snorkel in her mouth." Witnesses on the dive boat reported that Figuerola had signaled for help as she swam toward the boat, a gesture Allen didn't see because he was facing away from her. It remains unclear from the investigation or the various eyewitness reports - including Allen's - how Figuerola ended up on the bottom of the ocean. Allen insists she had inflated her buoyancy compensator vest as they ascended together. To sink beneath the surface, she would have had to release the air in the vest. Allen speculates that she probably did just that, tried to swim under the current, ran out of air, panicked, didn't employ any emergency procedures, and sank to her death.
A postdive equipment check revealed that Figuerola's pressure gauge was reading 200 psi higher than the air tank's actual contents, which may have led her to believe she still had air left when in fact she didn't. But detective Bryan determined that the dive shop had adhered to conventional maintenance schedules and had checked the equipment on a regular basis. (Dive experts say it's not uncommon for gauges to read slightly inaccurately, which is why many instructors and dive-boat operators insist their clients surface with from 500 to 1000 psi.) An autopsy revealed that Figuerola had experienced no trauma, but discovered amphetamines in her stomach. Allen, astonished when told of the amphetamines, insists Figuerola didn't take drugs. Because she was known to be extremely weight-conscious, investigators speculate the amphetamines may have been diet pills.
Regardless of the variety, the amphetamines likely didn't do the distressed woman any good. "I don't know if it had anything to do with her death, but if she's got amphetamines, that affects the cardiovascular system and that's what gave out there," says Joel Dovenbarger, medical coordinator of the Diving Alert Network at Duke University. "She's got breathing problems, she's probably getting panicky, and she's got these amphetamines. It's yet another factor that would influence her decision-making process."
Detective Bryan's conclusion that the drowning was accidental hasn't helped Allen come to terms with the circumstances of the death. "She shouldn't have died," he insists mournfully. It's early evening on a Friday, and Allen has recently returned from a brief vacation in the Keys where he had his first look at Bryan's investigative report. His tie gone, Allen slumps his trim, six-foot-four frame into a desk chair in his Coral Gables law office. A voluble man with a heavy New Jersey accent, he candidly recalls his abbreviated romance with Figuerola and its tragic denouement. "I keep waiting for her to walk back into the room. Listen, I couldn't talk about this story for weeks upon weeks and weeks without breaking down, all right? And I've gotten very good at it as the time's gone by."
Both Allen and Figuerola took scuba certification classes with one of the country's leading training programs - the National Association of Scuba Diving Schools - but Allen still believes he was not adequately prepared. First off, he claims, he had no practical training in anything but serene seas. All of his in-water training had taken place in a pool, except for four open-water dives on extremely calm days. "They told us a little about currents and wind and waves," he says, "but you have to go out in something rougher than a bathtub." (Allen's dive instructor, Kenneth Dick, as well as the Lady Cyana III captain Greg Edkins, and Don Stelzen, Figuerola's instructor for her refresher course, all declined comment for this story and referred inquiries to their attorneys.)
A second inadequacy of his certification program, Allen alleges, is that his emergency training was brief and that he was never taught basic moves such as dropping the weight belt to create buoyancy. Third, there was no training in navigational skills underwater, he claims. "We discussed a little about the compass, but I've never used one. We didn't know shit about navigation." Allen, a seemingly punctilious organizer, insists that if his class had been taught something, then he would know it. "I had all these things cold," he says. "I'm one of those guys who's fanatical. I had to know everything. I'd even go to the library and read more about something." Furthermore, Allen says, he was one of the best students in the class, which was taught at the south campus of Miami-Dade Community College.
Allen also unloads some of the responsibility for Figuerola's death on the charter boat captain, Greg Edkins, whom he believes shouldn't have taken novices out on a day with rough-weather forecasts. "I had called at least two other people whose names had been given to me by Austin's [Dive Shop in Kendall], and they were not going out," the lawyer states. "They said the weather was too rough. When I called Lady Cyana, I was surprised they were going out." (National Weather Service forecasts for October 27 in the Islamorada area called for fifteen- to twenty-mile-per-hour winds and four- to six-foot seas. Coast Guard weather reports indicate seas were actually at two to three feet that day, detective Corey Bryan says.)
Don Stelzen also comes under Allen's fire. "He knew how bad she was," Allen insists. "He should've planned something for her. Who was he turning her loose to? Me? It was my first dive!" Allen argues that a mandatory refresher course - more comprehensive than Figuerola's - or mandatory recertification for rusty divers would have saved Figuerola. "When a diver gets a certification card, should certification stop at that point?" he asks. "Shouldn't a diver demonstrate competence over a period of time?"
Donna Albert, a lawyer representing Stelzen, Lady Cyana Divers, and Allen's dive instructor Kenneth Dick, dismisses Allen's complaints as "unequivocally outrageous." She says both Allen and Figuerola were properly trained to deal with any water conditions that arose during their dive. The National Association of Scuba Diving Schools course devotes an entire class to rescue skills and trains novice divers to execute basic emergency techniques. "After learning never to leave your buddy, you learn that when you're in distress, you drop your weight belt," Albert says. "They were nowhere near each other, and currents have nothing to do with one's failure to release one's weight belt. When you undertake to serve as a person's buddy, your function is to save the buddy, not to talk about what happened in a class three weeks ago."
As for Allen's charge that Don Stelzen shouldn't have let the couple dive alone, Albert says Stelzen even invited the couple to tag along with him and the group of his students diving from the boat. "This woman was a fully certified diver, she was not a student," argues Albert. "Even though she had a little bit of trouble clearing her mask, she wasn't let out of the class until she could do it. Once a person has a certification card, there's no requirement for her to be supervised."
But Allen is not alone in thinking minimum course requirements for scuba certification are not rigorous enough. Many of the divers and dive instructors interviewed for this story have at least a couple of gripes about the established certification standards. All the major dive-certification programs include classes on land, in a pool, and in the open water. They are designed to make divers proficient enough - and just barely proficient enough - to swim unsupervised in the open water. The programs may vary slightly, but in the end, a course's purported thoroughness depends entirely on the individual instructors.
Among some of the more conscientious dive instructors, the principal criticism of certification programs is that they don't provide adequate realistic preparation for an emergency. "With the right training, you can't blame anything on a gauge, or equipment, or a buddy," says Kenny Broad, an instructor for the National Association of Underwater Instructors and the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, two of the largest certification agencies in the U.S. "And the right training is simulated-stress training."
Hard-nosed training regimens have been a casualty of the industry's growth, says Tom Mount, a founder of the National Association for Cave Divers and a dive instructor for 31 years. "I think over the years you've had a softening of divers' standards in a lot of ways," he says. "There's a lot of emphasis on `diving should be fun,' rather than an emphasis on rigorousness. It's a good thing that a lot of instructional techniques are no longer in the sport, such as harassing of students underwater. But something like stress management shouldn't have been left out."
For example, Mount says, he augments his basic certification class with a simulated emergency situation in which a diver runs out of air far more than an arm's length away from the buddy. Where most classes have the two diving buddies swim a couple of laps in a pool side-by-side while sharing one regulator, Mount has the buddies begin apart from each other and forces one with an air problem to swim the distance to join the other diver with the functional air supply. This exercise, Mount says, better illustrates what it feels like to run out of air and get to the other diver while maintaining composure in a stressful situation. Says dive instructor and charter-boat operator Rick Smith, considered by many to be one of the best instructors in Miami: "People who have ten things wrong [with their equipment] shouldn't have any problem surviving. I've seen someone hit the water, get a little water in their mask, and come up screaming."
Several dive operators and dive instructors also agree that if Allen and Figuerola were as obviously inexperienced as Allen says, then Lady Cyana III's captain made a questionable decision letting the two go alone, particularly on a day with forecasts for some rough weather. "The very best divemasters, the very best instructors, the very best charter-boat operators aren't the ones that do these great rescues," says instructor Kenny Broad. "The best ones prevent these accidents well before they turn into accidents. If prevention means don't let them get into the water, don't let them get into the water."
Rick Smith, who estimates he's trained 6000 people and taken out tens of thousands for dives, explains that in most cases the warning signs should leap out at the trained dive pro. "After a while you can tell who's going to be shaky. The person that's taking a long time to go in, the person asking questions they shouldn't ask, like, `Are there sharks around here?' That person is really telling you something by saying something else. The person who puts on their regulator backward is telling you something by not telling you anything." (South Florida dive professionals, it should be noted, express surprise that an accident of this nature occurred on a Lady Cyana Divers vessel and praise the shop's safety track record and dedication to the sport.)
Many dive operators say that on more than a few occasions, they've prevented certified divers from going in the water, or have assigned a mate to a diver for the duration of the dive. "I can't tell you how often I've had to do that," Smith says. "The unfortunate thing is a person can get certified who really isn't able to go out there and do a rigorous dive."
Dive-boat operator Chuck Norwich tells a cautionary tale about reading the warning signs before an accident happens. In the Seventies, he says, a teacher from Sweden would visit the United States every year and go diving in Florida. Norwich took the woman on his boat twice, but both times she ran out of air down-current and drifted away from the group - both violations of diving's golden rules. The next time the woman called Norwich for a dive, he refused to take her. "That week I saw a small article in the newspaper," remembers Norwich. "The woman drowned in a diving accident in the Keys."
The infrequent diver invites much debate among certification agencies and scuba experts. One side suggests mandatory recertification for a certified diver who hasn't been diving in a while. That idea isn't unanimously popular and was voted down last year by the National Association of Underwater Instructors. Tom Mount, a critic of the idea, suggests that instead of mandatory recertification, dive operators should emphasize the strict documentation of all dives in the diver's log book. With a well-maintained log book, a dive-shop owner or boat operator would know how often someone has dived, where the dives took place, to what depth, and with whom. A dive professional could decide whether to serve the person, or whether to provide refresher lessons and guidance as needed.
Mount and others also recommend that divers be certified to dive in a particular region only, or have cross-environmental training. Open-water ocean dives won't necessarily prepare you for freshwater diving in the Midwest, where lakes and ponds have limited visibility and colder temperatures. Similarly, Mount says, dive instruction in either environment usually isn't adequate preparation for the intricacies of West Coast diving, which sometimes requires entering the ocean through heavy surf.
Concerns such as cross-environmental training, recertification, and stress management occupy the minds of dive professionals at one end of the spectrum. At the other end, a rotating assemblage of frauds and unscrupulous dive professionals offer insufficient instruction and jeopardize diving safety in the interest of the bottom line. "Poor instruction and poor service is not so much with dive shops but with fly-by-night instructors," says Ron McManmon, owner of Team Divers in Miami Beach. Most divers in South Florida tell tales of interlopers who exploit the industry's good reputation:
|Courses with only one pool session, when industry standards call for at least three or four.
|Three-day courses, while standards usually demand no fewer than five.
|Instructors who sell certification cards to unschooled divers.
|Dive stores who certify unqualified students simply because they bought equipment from the stores.
|Dive shops and charter boat operators who don't check certification cards regularly.
|Operators who go out in rough weather, leave their boats unattended, or leave divers behind.
"I used to work for one dive operation that would take their people out in the boat totally untrained," instructor Rick Smith says. "That's like taking someone to the bunny slope skiing and saying, `Well you've done that twice. Now you're ready for the black diamond trails.'"
Dishonest and careless dive instructors are frequently blameworthy for an alarmingly high number of deaths, says plaintiff's lawyer Kevin Malone. In 1990, for instance, six of 91 U.S. scuba fatalities occurred in a beginning scuba class, according to the Divers Alert Network. "Two-thirds of my cases are people who die as students in their scuba class," Malone says. "The reason for that, invariably, is lack of supervision by instructors over the class. It's not the standards per se that are the problems. It's the individual instructors not doing the job." By extension, Malone explains, the various instructional agencies are not as diligent as they should be in supervising their instructors. "The number of instructors that have accidents is very, very low, but I've seen some instructors who have had multiple accidents or deaths in their resume."
All the instructors Malone has sued were representatives of at least one of the largest instructional agencies, primarily the Professional Association of Dive Instructors. "In fairness to PADI, that may be because they certify more people than anyone else," Malone offers, "but it may be because they are more of a certification mill than anyone else."
Diver inexperience lurks behind many deaths and accidents, and dive professionals say Figuerola's was no different. In fact, says Divers Alert Network medical coordinator Joel Dovenbarger, one of four U.S. scuba fatality victims in 1990 had completed between six and twenty dives, and another 12.5 percent had five or fewer dives. Expert divers say Allen and Figuerola seemed to have made a series of poor decisions: They were poorly weighted, drifted down-current, strayed too far from the boat, and foolishly tried to swim the distance back. In addition, dive professionals say, Figuerola failed to switch to her snorkel when she broke the surface, for some reason deflated her buoyancy control vest, and ran out of air. Says dive instructor Rick Smith: "With the equipment on the market today, you should be able to get back to the boat. You could inflate the b.c. [vest], ditch the weight belt, and you float to Africa like that. You'd have to want to drown."
Finally, one of the last safeguards - the buddy system - was eliminated when Allen unwittingly swam away from his girlfriend. "Twenty feet might as well have been 100 feet in my opinion," says Miami Beach dive-shop owner McManmon. "Proper precautions have been eliminated where the buddy system is compromised, particularly in a current. They should've been in verbal communication."
Regret haunts Allen these days, as he continually reconsiders the tragedy that befell Figuerola, trying to make some sense of a senseless death. His story of their scuba adventure - from the first moment they spoke about diving to their final fateful swim back to the boat - is littered with "should haves" and "if onlys." "My friends say, `Larry, why do you keep beating yourself over the head about this? You've been through this traumatizing experience. Give yourself a break,'" he says. "But I just keep talking about it."
With lawyers for the Figuerola family and the dive professionals now burrowing into the evidence in search of blame, a legal resolution to Figuerola's death may not come anytime soon. While he welcomes an inquiry for the positive effect it may have on scuba safety, Allen doesn't relish the thought of retelling the story again and again and again. Meanwhile, he gropes for a more profound sense of closure to the tragedy. "I feel I shouldn't leave it like this," he sighs, staring off somewhere beyond the walls of his office. "I feel that I should go back for another dive, even if it's just one more time." But the thought alone seems to test his resolve, and, for a brief moment, Allen struggles for his next word.