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Boat captain describes harrowing moments before Kittiwake crash

The Joint Marine Unit has launched an investigation into a Tuesday (8 January) afternoon boat crash near the Kittiwake dive site.

One boat captain told Cayman 27 his vessel was tied to a mooring at around 1 p.m. when another vessel came crashing into it at a high rate of speed.

Eight years after its sinking on the island’s west side, the ex-USS Kittiwake remains one of Grand Cayman most popular dive attractions. Tuesday, it almost became the scene of tragedy.

“It just seems surreal, it just seemed like it wasn’t happening,” said DiveTech boat captain Drew McArthur.

He said he was briefing customers for an afternoon dive on the Kittiwake when he noticed a vessel heading his way at high speed.

“There was no one behind the wheel, so I went over to that side of the boat and started screaming and shouting and trying to get their attention, trying to raise the alarm basically, but by the time somebody came to the wheel, it was too late, they couldn’t slow it down, they couldn’t turn, and they just crashed into the side of the boat,” said Mr. McArthur.

Luckily, no one was injured.

Mr. McArthur says the bow of the Cathy Church Photo Centre’s dive vessel broke through the port side of the DiveTech vessel Atatude, seriously damaging the window and the hull.

When reached by phone, an emotional Cathy Church admitted that no one was at the helm. She said it was purely an accident, a result of a miscommunication between herself and crew. She called the incident a horrific nightmare.

“This is not an accident, this is just extreme negligence on somebody’s behalf,” said DiveTech owner Joanna Mikutowicz. “As a boat captain you do not leave the home of your vessel with it in full gear, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter what you told somebody, what you think you told somebody, what you think they heard, what maybe they heard, what they didn’t hear, it doesn’t matter. As a boat captain you do not leave the helm of your vessel unattended, full speed ahead, ever, bottom line.”

Ms. Mikutowicz said while Tuesday’s accident could’ve been much worse, it’s still unacceptable.

“I’m sorry, but if you’re going to make decisions like walking away from your helm while it is in full speed ahead, you have absolutely no right to be driving a dive boat or anybody for that matter, around the waters in Grand Cayman or anywhere else in this world,” said Ms. Mikutowicz.

Mr. McArthur said in addition to his divers and crew, two snorkel boats were moored at the site with guests in the water.

Ms. Church told Cayman 27 that herself and another crew member both thought the helm was being covered.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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