Tourists Being Struck and Killed by Boat Propellers in Diving / Snorkeling Areas
The recent December 2012 Casey Schulman propeller accident is reminiscent of many other diving and snorkeling tourist prop strikes in diving / snorkeling areas. These regions of the world often lack quick emergency response teams, paramedics, life flight, trauma centers, advanced medical care, and blood supplies. Boats are usually not registered and no boating safety training is required. Governments in these regions have been accused of covering up evidence and making it difficult for families to resolve what really happened, especially when their prominent local citizens, local government officials, or local military personnel may have caused the accident. Legal recourse against potentially negligent parties is often very difficult to impossible. Often those thought to be responsible for causing the accident walk away scot-free. A more complete list of challenges is at the bottom of this post.
The incidents reported below tell some of these tales, including asking residents of the hotel divers were staying in for blood because no supplies were available and one boat operator telling the diver he just ran over that he (the boat operator) would be holding him (the diver) responsible for the damages caused to his boat.
We created this page to start accumulating a list of these accidents. We will be adding to it as time permits. The list focuses on tourist being struck by a propeller in a diving / snorkeling, water tourism area outside of their own country.
Tourists Struck by Propellers in Diving and Snorkeling Areas Outside the U.S.
- Mid August 1993 Lee Mason of the UK was holidaying with his parents at Costa del Sol Spain. While diving with a friend off Calahonda Beach, he was fatally struck by a boat, and suffered head and neck injuries thought to be from the propellers. Local authorities tried to determine if the boat that struck him was operating too close to the beach.
- 1995 Karl Sacks of the UK lost part of his leg in a diving accident in South Africa. He went on to star in a BBC television travel show, Beyond Boundaries.
- 5 June 1995 Ann Hughes and Lain McDonald of Scotland were part of a 41 person delegation to their sister city, Gomel, in what was previously Belarus, Russia. They swam in the River Sosh and were struck by the boat from which they had just been aboard. Both bodies were found three days later. The skipper was released without charges.
- February 1998 Thomas Abrey of Norfolk England was snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia off Keppel Island. The tour boat, Reef Cat, ran over him while en route to pickup a tourist that had a cramp. His left forearm was crushed between the propeller and a reef guard, and later amputated below the elbow.
- November 1999 Michael Whitley of the UK was diving with a group at Hurghadawhen Resort in Egypt. He was struck by the dive boat propeller and died of massive head injuries. Whitley was a well known naval history author.
- 18 December 2000 Kirsty MacColl, well known UK singer, was scuba diving at Cozumel, Mexico with a friend and her two sons. As they surfaced, a boat was coming at then. She was able to push her sons to safety, but Kirsty was struck by the propeller and killed instantly. Family and friends had great difficulties in reaching closure from an investigation as a very powerful businessman was thought to have been driving the boat. The family crusaded for “Justice for Kirsty” for many years and finally gave up.
- 15 August 2002 Paul Gallagher, a two year old UK boy from Kent UK was with his parents on holiday in the Bahamas. Paul was sleeping in a beach chair. An out of control boat ran upon the beach and struck him with its propeller. He died five days later.
- 24 July 2004 Joanna Stillwell, 23 from Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK was snorkeling off Pulau Redang, Malaysia with her brother on a family trip. She was struck by the prop of a passing boat in the chest and legs, and died from her injuries. She had been traveling the world after graduation. Joanna and her family met up in Malaysia.
- April 2005 Karl Wood of the UK was snorkeling in Cypress. An army boat tried to miss him at the last moment, but his leg was caught in the propeller. There was delay and confusion in responders meeting up with his boat, and he died.
- 10 August 2005 Alexandria Ciardi, female fund manager from West London UK was in Sardinia with her husband. As she swam from one boat to another, she was hit by a yacht tender from another vessel, struck in the head by the propeller, and died from her injuries. The other yacht owner and skipper were charged with negligence, but they were found not guilty 5 years later.
- 16 October 2005 Naomi La Monica of the UK fell, along with the skipper, from a dinghy in Australia. The boat circled, and her head was fatally struck by the propeller. The skipper originally claimed she had been driving the boat, but later changed his story.
- 22 July 2006 a 35 year old woman from East Africa fell from a boat in Wales, and suffered serious injuries to her head from the propeller. She was life flighted to Bangor.
- 12 June 2007, C.B. Laso (16 year old teenager from Spain) and Y. Quesnel (17 year old teenager from Trinidad) were swimming in shallow water near Pigeion Point, Trinidad & Tobago. A small boat ran over them and they were struck by its propeller. The girl received a broken arm, her leg was broken in 5 places, and her skull was fractured. The boy received a serious head injury that left him paralyzed for life. The girl’s family in Spain had great difficulties in trying to make sure there was an effective investigation.
- 30 November 2007, Rebecca Stockwell (formerly Rebecca Crawley), 27 of New Zealand, and her husband were on their honeymoon in Fiji. They were snorkeling off the island of Matamanoa when she was struck by the propeller of a passing boat. She was life flighted to Lautoka and pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. Her father had problems resolving the investigation and in legal proceedings.
- Approximately 10 April 2008, Kari Wood, 40 of the UK, was snorkeling at Ladies Beach in Cyprus. A military boat ran over him, he was struck in the leg by its propeller. The military and a nearby tourist boat put out a Mayday call but no one came. Two soldiers went to shore to find a phone. The military took him a to harbor two miles away, while in the confusion, a helicopter landed back at the site they had called from. Eventually a helicopter and an ambulance arrived and he was declared dead shortly later.
- 21 April 2008, Dennis Turcotte, 60 of Canada, was snorkeling in Belize with two other divers near a dive marker buoy. Another dive boat came through bearing down on all three divers. They all dove down to avoid being struck. He was struck in the head and above his ankle. The boat stopped and had some medical people onboard. They gave him CPR. It took an hour to get him to a medical clinic and 445 more minutes to get to a hospital. He was then life flighted to a hospital in Belize City and operated on six hours after the incident. The operation lasted five hours. A few days later he was air lifted to Miami, Florida. A few weeks later he was air lifted to a hospital in Canada. His family hoped he would be home in time for Christmas.
- Approximately 8 October 2008, Alexander Simkovic, 30 year old UN soldier from Slovakia was snorkeling with another soldier near Konnos Bay Beach in Cyprus. A boat only saw one of the two men and ran over him. His arm was severed at the shoulder and he died before they could get him to shore.
- Approximately 17 November 2008, Fred Buyle, well known underwater photographer, was filming a documentary in Tahiti. While on the surface of a marked diving scene, a boat came across him, the prop cut him in the back, ripped up his fins, broke his camera, and fractured his right elbow. They were filming at a remote site. The dive boat took him back to their base camp. From there a 7 meter RIB took him on a two hour trip to a dispensary, and then to an airport. He was flown to Papeete and taken to a hospital. Mr. Buyle credits his wetsuit for saving his life because its pressure kept his wounds closed.
- 14 January 2009 C.H. Leiner, from Germany, was swimming outside the swimming zone and may have been snorkeling at St. Georges Bay, St. Julian’s in Malta. He was struck by boat propeller which severed two arteries in his hand. The boat operator stopped to help. This report comes from coverage of a court case. Some media reports place the accident on this date in 2008.
- 7 March 2009, Go Ayaka, 29 year old lady from Japan was diving near Palau Pulai Malaysia when the dive boat she was with started its engine. She was stuck and killed by the propeller.
- 19 April 2009 Nicholas Dadgostar was snorkeling in the Virgin Islands during a break while there with the U.S. Air Force supporting a visit by the U.S. President. A commercial fishing boat struck him, breaking his left leg and puncturing his left lung. “His right leg, left hand, and left ankle were then caught in the boat’s propeller.” Six months later he lost his leg below the knee.
- Approximately 27 June 2009, Etsuko Kosaka, 52 year old female tourist from Japan, was scuba diving with a group near Cebu in the Philippines when she was struck by the propeller of a passing boat and died later in a hospital.
- 16 August 2009, Paige Welch, 13 of the U.S., her mother (of the U.S.), and a family member were kayaking in Trinidad and Tobago. Their kayak was struck by a 28 foot, 200 horsepower boat. Paige’s arm was struck by the propeller. Major news outlets covered the attempts to save her arm. The power boat was operated by a military officer. Paige’s family complained about the lack of information available to them about the accident. We remarked of similarities to the June 2007 Trinidad and Tobago accident.
- 14 October 2009, an American male, age 49, was diving in Fiji at Quamea. A passing boat struck him in the head with its propeller and he died instantly.
- 6 December 2009 or 6 December 2010, a Russian tourist diving at Koh Larn iff Tah Yau Beach in Thailand was struck and killed by the propeller of a passing speedboat.
- 20 or 21 September 2010, A. Alharmaoodi, a male tourist was snorkeling at Racha Yai, Thailand when he was struck by a speedboat and drug 300 meters. The boat captain stopped the boat, freed the diver, and told the diver he (the diver) would have to pay for the damages to his boat.
- 7 November 2012 Scott Hughes, Royal Air Force (UK) from north Wales was swimming in Cypress with his unit to decompress after a tour in Afghanistan. He was struck and killed by the propeller of a boat under the control of the Cypress military.
- 4 May 2011, a 22 year old female tourist (sound familiar) from Japan was diving off Racha Thailand with about ten divers. As she was surfacing, the dive boat reversed. She was struck in the head by the boat propeller and killed.
- 11 January 2011, Poliakov Oleg, 40 year old Russian tourist, was diving the reef at Pattaya, Thailand when he was struck in his back by the props of an unregistered boat and died. Some reports state his body was cut in half.
- 17 Jul 2011 Scot Suzanne Cassidy of Scotland was tending bar on Ibiza (island off Spain) for the summer. She and friends rode a tube, she slipped off, while re-entering the boat the captain started the propeller. She was severely struck in her right knee and leg.
- 3 August 2011 Adam Rose of the UK was on holiday with friends on Zante (a Greek island). They hired boat to sail to nearby islands, he fell from the stern, and was stuck by the propeller in his tail bone, hands, feet, and groin. He had to endure a 30 minute ride back to the main island for help.
- Late November 2011, Maurice Abrahams of the UK was scuba diving in Egypt near El Gouna Resort. As he was surfacing, another boat arrived. He was struck by the propeller in his backside, arms, and legs. Doctors had to appeal to other guests at the resort for blood to save him. One he was able to return to the UK, he spent five more weeks in the hospital there. Mail Online which also covered Casey’s accident, said Maurice “was trapped under the propeller as his bones splintered and the water around him filled with blood.”
- 2 December 2011, Nikolai Nefedov, 51 year old tourist from Russia, was snorkeling at Kata Beach in Thailand. His legs were cut by a boat propeller. He was taken to Phuket International Hospital, then on to Vachira hospital. It was believed that he would be able to walk again.
- 10 December 2011, Catherine Carlyle or Doctor Catherine Pyne a 49 year old female from Australia was on a Dophin Watch Ecotours trip in New Zealand. She was told by the staff that it was ok to jump from the back of the boat, she did, and she was struck and killed by the propeller.
- 13 February 2012, a Ukranian tourist and his friend were snorkeling off Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, another famous snorkeling area, when he was struck by the propeller of a passing boat and later died. This strike was captured on underwater video by his friend. The video rolls all the way to the hospital. Some feel he bled to death due to poor medical conditions and lack of emergency preparations in the region. The shaky video reveals some of the conditions there.
- 12 November 2012, Kang Chulge, 30 year old Korean tourist, was snorkeling with 5 others off Koh Panyee in Thailand when he was struck in the head by the propeller of a passing boat. After several transfers enroute to a hospital he was put in a tourist van which became caught in rush hour traffic. Some passing rescue workers were eventually able to get him to Phuket International Hospital.
- 1 December 2012, Casey Schulman, 22 year old University of Virginia student, in Dominica on a Semester at Sea excursion was struck and killed by the propeller of a charter boat that had taken them snorkeling. After snorkeling the boat took them to a beach where some students swam. The boat restocked supplies and reversed into her.
- 31 January 2013 an Italian woman was snorkeling in the Maldives at Elaa Island in Thaa Atoll. She suffered “a major injury to her skull” from a boat propeller, and declared dead on arrival at Veymandoo Regional Hospital . The article goes on to talk about Chinese tourists snorkeling deaths including an October 2012 fatality of a 26 year old Chinese male at the Alif Dhaal Atoll.
- 1 February 2013 a woman from Moscow, Russia in her early thirties was diving in Egypt with a group of tourists at Sharm el-Sheikh. She surfaced and was fatally struck by the propeller of a passing boat.
- 9 May 2013 Nathalie, of the Netherlands was diving with a group off the Galapagos Islands. As she surfaced, she was severely struck in the leg by the propeller of passing boat. She endured a 1.5 hour boat ride back to the main island, then a 1.5 hour commercial flight to Ecuador where she spent 16 days in a hospital before going back to a hospital the Netherlands.
- 27 May 2013 Madaline Jayne / Cole, 25 of Herefordshire, England was diving / snorkeling with Simon James Rogers, 22 of Australia, and others near Shari-La Resort, Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia. They were both struck by the propeller of a boat bringing tourists to the resort. She died en route to medical care, he was seriously injured.
- 1 June 2013 a German woman honeymooning in the Maldives at Reethi Beach Resort was diving this morning. She was struck by a boat propeller in the leg, her injuries were serious, and she was taken to Male for treatment.
- 19 June 2013 Chen Peng, a Chinese tourist, was on a snorkeling day trip from Phuket to Phi Phi Thailand today. He was struck by a boat propeller near Phi Phi’s main harbor. His wounds were too serious for the local hospital so he was taken to a hospital in Phuket City where he died. Six of the eleven tourists onboard were in the water when the dive boat started to drift toward the rocks and the captain moved the boat. He was struck in the stomach by the propeller and died from loss of blood.
- 31 August 2013 A 45 year old man from Finland was in the waters off Malta with 5 other Finish divers at Il-Ponta-tal-Irqiqua, Comino. Strong currents pushed him toward the dive boat, and he was struck by the prop. He arrived at the hospital in critical condition from propeller injuries to his upper body.
- 2 October 2013 Shilipi Agarwal, 36 year woman from India, and her husband were celebrating their wedding anniversary in Pattaya, Thailand. Shilipi was being towed by a parasailing boat just prior to being launched into the air. She fell, the boat operator backed the boat up to retrieve her, she was struck and killed by the parasailing boat’s propeller.
- 13 October 2013 Konstantin Maltsev, 35 year old Russian tourist, was swimming off the coast of CoralBay in Pyia Cyprus (a popular tourist area with sandy beaches and blue water) with his father. Konstantin was struck by the propeller of a speedboat pulling an inflatable boat. The boat operator heard a thump and a man screaming shortly later, he went back and helped them to shore. Konstantin was taken to Paphos General Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
- 7 February 2014 Bruce Porter, 56 of New Zealand (originally from the UK) was diving as part of a club dive off Poor Knights Islands. He surfaced and was getting ready to board the boat when he was struck in the face and fatally wounded by the propeller. The chartered dive and snorkeling vessel was a 53 foot catamaran from Pacific Hideaway. We cover the accident in depth at Bruce Porter killed by dive catamaran.
- 22 May 2014 2014 Gigel Tonea, 66 of Toronto Canada, was snorkeling off Cuba’s Santa Lucia beach. His wife was watching from shore as a passenger on a boat lifted a body into the boat. When he failed to return to shore, she knew it had been her husband’s body. The official report said Gigel Tonea suffered fatal propeller injuries to his head and back after being struck by the boat. His family is facing problems similar to many others on this page as local authorities continue to limit the access to information about the accident.
- 25 March 2015 Rudi Dann, 54 year old German tourist, was struck in dead by Phuket longtail boat propeller. He was swimming about 60 meters off Karon Beach. Mr. Dann was struck in the head by a longtail boat propeller about 10am. He was taken to Patong Hospital, then transferred to Bangkok Hospital in Phuket. He suffered at least one cut deep into his skull.
- 22 December 2014 Silji Macdison, a 22 year old female tourist from Norway, was struck by a boat propeller while scuba diving off Koh Tao Island in Thailand. The propeller struck her in the head and killed her.
- 9 June 2015 Alice Davies, 19 of Great Britain, was night diving near an island off the Koh Tao District of Thailand on Tuesday 9 June. She was diving along with others. She was struck by the propeller of another dive boat with divers in the area, “her leg was severely lacerated, with two broken bones, and she had lost a lot of blood.” Later reports indicate her leg was nearly completely severed, but was able to be reattached.
- 13 August 2015 Costa Rica – Won Ah, a 30 year old tourist from the United States, was on a fishing charter with his brother and 5 other tourists. They were on a 30 foot boat about 3 miles off Los Suenos Marina in Playa Herradura. The tourists asked the captain to stop the boat, he left the motors idling, some tourists jumped into the water to swim. The captain heard a loud noise, and stopped the engines. Won Ah was apparently entrapped in the propeller by his bathing suit. He died at the scene.
- 5 January 2016 Thailand – Sylvie Thietau, 52 of France, snorkeling with her family in Krabi, a Thailand resort province, struck and killed by propeller of passing tour boat that fled the scene. Operator of fleeing tour boat was later questioned.
- 9 January 2016 Indonesia – Kim Hong Soek, 19 of South Korea, fell from a banana boat being towed by a Bintan Lagoon Resort employee. The boat circled back to pick up the two people that had fallen from the banana boat, the boat operator and an assistant were both ejected when the boat hit waves, the tow boat went into the Circle of Death, Kim Hong was struck by the propeller and later died from his injuries.
- 3 February Thailand – two Russian tourists were snorkeling near Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Lee island the morning of 3 February. A twin engine Sunsan boat carrying about 30 passengers ran over them. The boat’s propeller cut a leg off a 30 year old Russian male. The other Russian man suffered deep cuts to his leg.
- August 2016 accident in Philippines – 22 March 2018 Rappler (Philippines) “Swedish national dies in electrocution accident in Bohol resort” reports on an electrocution and other recent tourism accidents on Panglao Island, including “In August 2016, a police officer from Dallas, Texas died on his wedding day after he was hit by a boat’s propeller while diving in the seawater off Bluewater Resort in Panglao.” A female Korean tourist was also killed by a boat propeller strike to the head in February 2018 when she fell overboard into the sea.
- 26 June 2018 Jacob Bury of Maryland has been teaching in Saudi Arabia. He took a group of students on an annual snorkeling trip. One the second day, Tuesday 26 June, he was sucked into the propeller and lost his right leg.
- 1 July 2018 Saudi Arabia – 27 year old, male, Chinese tourist snorkeling with a lady in lagoon at Finolhu resort was killed by a boat propeller. Two days later, Police say they cannot say anything about the accident.
Propeller Safety Challenges in Less Developed Countries
We have seen many propeller accidents in water tourism destinations in less developed countries some would refer to as third world countries. We are not saying all less developed countries have all these problems, but most major propeller accidents in less developed countries will encounter several of these challenges.
- Lack of availability of boating safety training for recreational or small commercial boat operators
- Lack of requirements including boating safety training excursion, tour. and dive vessel operators
- Little or no medical supplies on excursion, tour, and dive vessels
- No medical training of staff on tour and dive vessels
- No paramedics or EMTs respond to accident site
- No emergency plan in place on excursion, tour, or dive vessels. No pre-established plan of who to radio or call, no pre established plan of where to take the injured party, no plan for emergency contact of family members
- Minimal if any safety discussions / instructions with passengers prior to departure
- No insurance requirements for tour and dive boat companies or operators
- No cell phone service
- Great distances over rough terrain to basic medical care, then transferred on further to regional facilities
- Poor physical facilities used for medical care (no window screens allow flies to swarm on blood of those injured)
- Rough ride in transport to medical care (carried out by hand, several hour boat rides, jeeps, etc). No life flight service.
- Lack of dignity during transport (transported naked in some instances when propeller ripped clothes off them)
- Eventually requires medical transport back to U.S.
- Physicians and medical staff do not speak English, translators can be hard to find
- Lack of Justice (military vessels get a free pass, recreational boaters have money, you are a tourist never coming back, good old buddies, bribery, corruption, etc)
- Swim zones not marked
- Swim zones / dive zones not observed by boaters
- Great distance to loved ones, family must travel internationally to get to bedside or recover body
- Stonewalled by local investigators or no investigation
- Boats not registered
- Coverups, they make money from water tourism, accidents are bad for business so they get swept under the rug
- Minimal blood supplies (have been instances in which those on the tour had to give blood)
- Few trained in CPR, no defibrillators
- Major medical advances in U.S. learned from battlefield injuries are not available there
- No counseling / therapy, just hose the blood off the vessel and continue the tour
- Small island tours and dives can offer even greater challenges in accessing medical care.
The challenges above appear unsurmountable in poor countries. There is little hope for substantially changing many of these conditions in the near future.
Thus those bringing groups to tours (such as Cruise ships, colleges, dive clubs, etc) need to:
- Thoroughly check out and continue to monitor the specific excursion, tour, or dive operation
- Make sure a written contract defines the standard of care to be provided by the tour or dive operator with respect to boating safety, swimming, snorkeling, and diving issues
- Fill in by providing the absent services where possible
- Thoroughly warn participants of the risks of injury or death
- Thoroughly warn participants of the severe challenges with respect to medical care in event of an injury at this location
- Thoroughly warn participants of the non-medical challenges surrounding severe injury or death
If no steps were taken to mitigate the many propeller safety challenges present in poor countries and someone on a excursion, tour, or dive group from the U.S. was injured or killed, the legal crowd would likely say the group organizing the tour failed to provided the standard of care expected by the participants / customers.
Historically cruise ships sell excursion tickets but try to lay all the responsibility on the tour operator with which they have contracted.
Official published investigative reports are rare.
- Hong Kong diving fatality report.
- Snorkeller Injury. Oceanic Explorer. The Annulus (Pope’s Eye) Port Phillip. 28 December 2008. Transport and Maritime Safety Investigations. Maritime Safety Investigation Report No. 2008/13.
Several local residents in these diving locals have been killed by propellers as well.