TORQUAY, Devon, UK (6 Dec 2008) — The man who led the rescue for a missing teenage diver has recalled the 'horrific events', after an inquest heard how the boy may have run out of air.
Rick Parker, skipper of the professional dive boat, the Jennifer Ann, was taking a party of 10 marine scientists diving on the day 14-year-old Louis Price, from Newport, south Wales, went missing off Berry Head, Brixham.
Mr Parker was turning his boat back towards Brixham following an earlier dive, so divers would not have to kit up in the choppy sea.
He recalled he was aware of a nearby fishing vessel and a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) belonging to Louis Price's family.
He said: "The RIB looked tethered to a marker buoy some 150 metres north of the quarries.
"Further inshore from the RIB was a single surface marker buoy but I couldn't see any diver on the surface.
"Being aware of the divers under water I came in close to the quarry to give them the widest berth possible."
Torbay-based Mr Parker said his boat was 300 yards west from the Price family's RIB.
He later noticed out of the corner of his eye people on the RIB waving their arms in distress.
Mr Parker said: "The RIB had untied themselves from the marker buoy and were drifting.
"On the way, I passed the buoy they had been tethered to and saw one diver on the surface and a surface marker much closer inshore. My passengers signalled to him and he signalled back that he was OK.
"The people on the RIB told me their engine had failed and they didn't have any radio. They asked us to pick up their divers."
Mr Parker said he moved his boat towards the lone diver.
At an inquest earlier this week, Louis's mother, Tracey, said she saw her son break the surface not long after her husband Stephen did.
However, Mr Parker insists neither he nor any of his passengers saw Louis on the surface at any time.
He added: "All I could see was Mr Price in the water. I thought there was one diver under water still with the buoy. Divers don't always come up together.
"I got Mr Price on board. He was quite calm. I asked him where his diving buddy was. He said he didn't know.
"As we approached the marker I couldn't see any bubbles. I pulled up the buoy very slowly. There was 10 metres of line but no diver."
Mr Parker said Mr Price told him he had last seen his diving buddy 15 minutes earlier during the five-metre safety stop.
That is when Mr Parker made a mayday call and started a search operation for the missing diver.
He added: "When we found out it was Mr Price's son it was horrible.
"He was an emotional wreck and knowing we were searching for his son was very distressing for my group who had decided to stay onboard and help."
He added: "I'd like to thank everyone involved in the search.
"The weather deteriorated a lot and it was very uncomfortable, but everyone battled on."
Despite a 36-hour search, Louis's body was not found. It was discovered 18 days later floating off Berry Head by a wildlife spotter.
At an inquest this week, police diving experts said it was possible the teenager had run out of air and sunk back under the waves shortly after reaching the surface.