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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
New fears over diving club boss
Jemma Stevens
Jemma Stevens failed to surface in a wreck dive
A BBC investigation following the death of a young Devon woman has called into question the regulation of Britain's booming diving industry.

Jemma Stevens, 19, from Honiton, died during a dive with Lyme Bay Diving Club in April last year.

The Sub Aqua Association (SAA) banned the club's chairman Les Cottrell.

But the Inside Out programme reveals he is still in charge of club dives with the approval of a different dive association, the British Sub-Aqua Club.

The inquest into Miss Stevens' death found that a number of safety guidelines had been breached on her fatal dive.

Lyme Bay
Police divers searched the wreck but could not trace Ms Stevens
Mr Cottrell was the most experienced person present at that dive.

He was not blamed for Miss Stevens' death at the inquest, but the SAA carried out an investigation and found that its guidelines had not been adhered to in relation to diver safety, duty of care and club management and it banned Mr Cottrell.

SAA Executive Member Mark Powell said the ban was in "the interests of other members safety".

It was the first time that anyone had been banned from the SAA on safety grounds, but Inside Out has discovered that Mr Cottrell has joined a new club called Phoenix, based in Lyme Bay.

We've been left with a life sentence
Justin Stevens, father of Jemma
This is only possible because he has been welcomed into another dive association - the world's biggest - the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC).

At the time of the inquest into Miss Stevens' death, her father Justin criticised the running of Lyme Bay Diving Club and welcomed the SAA's ban of Mr Cottrell, saying he hoped it would help stop similar accidents happening again.

He is appalled that the BSAC have allowed Les Cottrell to join.

He said: "We've been left with a life sentence. People say in time the grieving gets better. It doesn't, it gets worse.

"It's not like Les had to lie to the BSAC to join them, because they were at the inquest and they heard about all the rules being broken."

'Tough call'

The chairman of BSAC, Phil Harrison, said: "We were assured that there was a desire to learn, a desire to develop, and a desire to abide by the safety standards and processes that the British Sub-Aqua Club has held dear to its development for 50 years.

"We made a very, very tough call as to whether we should exclude these people from joining the club or whether we should include them."

Asked whether he thought he had made the right decision, Mr Harrison said: "Yes, based on the evidence that I have. If you are providing me with different evidence, then we have to relook at that decision."

Portland coastguard, which covers Lyme Bay, says that unless the dive associations get to grips with this kind of safety issue, the sport should be subject to the same sort of regulation that commercial divers operate under.

Portland Coastguard Jim Anderson said: "SAA, BSAC - they all meet on a regular basis. What do they talk about? Is it purely a talking shop? When are they going to address the problem of safe diving practice?"

Sports divers have resisted more regulation in the past and the government says it has no plans to introduce tighter rules.

Mr Cottrell has refused to comment on the Inside Out investigation.




SEE ALSO:
Diving club members banned
20 Jan 04  |  Devon
Father's anger at dive club
23 Dec 03  |  Devon
Mystery body is missing diver
15 May 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset


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