A scuba diving instructor told how she battled in vain to save her newly-qualified diving companion after he suffered a panic attack and died during an underwater expedition in the North Sea.
Natasha Scott was 40ft under the surface of the water with quantity surveyor Benjamin Rayner, 38, when he suddenly lost control due to an issue with his scuba equipment.
Miss Scott tried to help Mr Rayner but he tried to grab hold of her and began ‘’flailing his arm and legs’’ and filling his buoyancy aid with air. She attempted to keep control of the 38-year old but was forced to let him go for her own safety as he rapidly rose feet first to the surface with water leaking into his mask.
Mr Rayner, originally from Knutsford, Cheshire, who weighed 20 stone was pulled from the sea into a boat but died from organ failure despite attempts to revive him. Details of the tragedy on 22 June 2014 emerged for the first time at an inquest in Warrington which heard how the diving expedition occurred off the Moray Firth.
Mr Rayner, who lived in Lossiemouth and who was secretary of Burghead Sub-Aqua Club, was diving with Miss Scott and two other enthusiasts near Findochty harbour just six weeks month after he qualified with the British Swimming Coaches Association as an ocean diver.
In a statement Miss Scott said: ‘’I had no concerns with him or his equipment. I went in initially with a diver who had problems with her ears and heard Ben having his buddy check being performed. He came into the water and we descended and he signalled that he was okay. The dive was a social dive and not an instruction.
“The dive started at 12.21 and lasted for 19 minutes. I noticed he had difficulties with one of his fins and I put it on correctly and tightened it for him. Then he began to ascend quickly and I tried to hold him. He put air in his jacket and I had to let go for my own safety - and then he was out of my sight. I had to stop to sort my own breathing and buoyancy whilst he lost control. I went to the surface where we were struggling to get him into the boat. We held his head into the boat and gave him rescue breaths but he was unresponsive.’’