The Department of Natural Resources faces a fine of up to $172,900 for 15 worker-safety violations discovered during an investigation of the July drowning death of one its divers off Bainbridge Island, the Department of Labor & Industries said Friday.
The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office found that 24-year-old David Scheinost of Puyallup technically died of “salt water drowning” with “acute cocaine intoxication” being a contributing factor.
But Labor & Industries’ investigation of his death found that several safety violations may have contributed to his death, prevented a timely rescue, and could have put many other divers in danger.
Over a six-month period, investigators found 370 occasions in which divers were deployed without carrying a reserve breathing-gas supply. They also found that DNR did not designate a person in charge of the dive location to supervise all aspects of the mission in which Scheinost died.
On July 24, Scheinost surfaced from the water in distress shouting out that he couldn’t breath while he and three other DNR divers were out collecting geoduck samples near Restoration Point. The other divers were unable to reach him before he sank. It took search teams 3 days to recover his body.
“Commercial diving involves risks that unfortunately lead too often to tragedies like this incident,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director of the department’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health in a statement. “These significant risk factors require advance planning, properly maintained equipment and strict adherence to procedures to ensure the protection of workers’ lives on each and every dive.”
DNR was also cited for eight “serious” and five “general” violations including: Not having a safety and health accident prevention and training program, not ensuring divers maintained visual contact with each other, lack of equipment inspection and maintenance and not having a stand-by diver available when other divers are in the water.
DNR has 15 working days to appeal the citation. If it pays the fine, the money will be placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, which helps workers and families of people who have died on the job.