A man vacationing on St. Thomas drowned Sunday while diving with his family, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.
The victim was identified as James P. Strunk of Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Strunk was diving with his wife and 12-year-old son west of Saba Island near Dry Rock, according to the Coast Guard, when he ran into trouble around noon.
The Coast Guard said all three family members were in the water when the incident occurred. The son was able to get back to the boat and call 911 for help. The 911 dispatcher transferred the information to the Coast Guard in Puerto Rico.
Sector San Juan dispatched a helicopter from Puerto Rico and a boat with an EMS crew from St. Thomas Search and Rescue.
Listening to the marine radio traffic, as he does most days, was Capt. Alan Wentworth of Sea Tow, the St. Thomas franchise of the international maritime company that offers services that range from towing, jump starts, fuel drops, prop disentanglements and help with almost any sea mishap.
Sitting in his Frenchtown home/office, he said, he heard the call, jumped in his boat and headed for Saba Island. Wentworth was the first to arrive on the scene, the Coast Guard said.
According to Wentworth, by the time he arrived, Strunk had been face down in the water for about 45 minutes.
"He was actually dead at that time … he’d been in the water 45 minutes before we got there. With great difficulty – he was a pretty big guy – we got him out of the water and onto our boat," Wentworth said.
That’s right when the Coast Guard arrived. The EMS crew immediately transferred to Sea Tow’s vessel and got to work, while the Coast Guard helicopter flew cover.
Wentworth returned to shore with the EMS crew still working on Strunk, but the victim was unresponsive.