Last May, it was widely reported that a female scuba diver off the coast of Kona, Hawaii was attacked by a fellow diver. I wrote about it here. At the time, before all the facts of the story came out, it seemed like a senseless and terrifying act by a sociopath. As the days went by, and as more details came to light, it became clear that, while still terrifying, the attack, in which the woman’s facemask was torn off, made a lot of sense. The attacker was practicing the controversial act of collecting reef fish for aquariums and the woman was a conservationist documenting the whole thing.
By making sense, I don’t mean the attack was justified. Far from it. Let me say this with emphasis: it is in no way all right to rip the mask and regulator off the face of another diver. The victim in question, Rene Umberger, said it best.
“That act of ripping out my air supply was terrifying and dangerous, and if it had occurred to someone who did not have as much experience as I did, they might well have died.”
She is absolutely correct. The attacker, Jay Lovell, basically committed the crime of attempted murder. It is no joke to take away someone’s air supply when they are at depth. An inexperienced person might just shrug and ask why can’t the person simply ascend to the surface? They could, if they wanted their lunges to explode. The first rule of scuba diving is to breath. Sounds elementary, but it’s important for more than the reason you think. Yes, we need oxygen to live, but we also need the proper pressurized air in our lungs. At depth, the air you are breathing in from a tank is pressurized, and if you hold some of that pressurized air in your lungs and rise to the surface, that pressure has to go somewhere. What happens is the lungs expand, sometimes to deadly proportions. Losing your air supply underwater can mean more than just drowning.
So, as you can see, what Lovell did was very, very serious. I don’t care if he thought Umberger was harassing him over his contentious behavior. If he didn’t like Umberger’s presence, he could and should have moved on to another location. Instead he chose to put another person’s life in grave danger, and that choice should have consequences.
However, it looks like those consequences will not be handed down.
“Lovell received a deferred six-month prison sentence on the charge of second-degree terroristic threatening. He must also obtain an anger management assessment, per the terms of a plea agreement forged between the prosecutors and Lovell’s defense attorney. The trial had been scheduled to play out this week. If he stays out of trouble for one year, he will not have to serve the time and the incident can be expunged from his record.” (westhawaiitoday.com)
This is a travesty of justice. Expunged? I know of people who have committed much lesser crimes, nonviolent, victimless crimes, where their record will be tainted, marked like the infamous scarlet letter until the end of time. And this guy, a man who blatantly tried to kill someone, gets a deferred sentence, some community service and pays a fine. He doesn’t even have to attend anger management classes, just have an assessment.
I must say that the courts swung and missed on this one. We all know this guy deserves to see the inside of a jail cell. After all, what happens when something like this occurs again? People who don’t care about the safety of others will just recall this case and feel empowered to commit similar acts.