|UPDATE: Sep. 23, 2009|
Tina Watson , a 26 year-old American from Alabama who died while scuba diving on her honeymoon in Queensland, Australia on October 22, 2003. She had been married to Gabe Watson only 11 days when she died.
On June 19, 2008, Townsville coroner David Glasgow ruled there is enough evidence to charge David "Gabe" Watson with the murder of his wife and subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest. Trial was set to begin February 2009, but Gabe Watson, a U.S. citizen, living in Alabama, failed to appear and extradition proceedings began. On May 18, 2009, after more than five years after Tina's death and rebuking all efforts to bring him back to Australia, Gabe Watson chose not to fight extradition proceedings and flew back to Australia voluntarily to face trial. On June 5, 2009, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Brisbane, Australia. He was sentenced to 4-1/2 years, of which, he will serve 12 months. An appeal of the sentence to make it more punitive is pending.
Alabama Attorney General's office intends to pursue prosecution of murder when Gabe Watson is returned to the U.S. If that does happen, I hope to extend this blog to discuss the issues in the case. In the meantime, this blog will provide an index of sources, who's who and who said what. Please feel free to leave a comment on any news story or source document you would like me to index.
As the author of this blog, I am a certified rescue diver (same certification as Gabe Watson). I live in California. For those readers who are not scuba divers, a rescue certification is still recreational-level diving (it is not professional). A rescue certification provides the diver with training to not only help him/herself during an emergency, but provides the skills to help others prevent a diving emergency or conduct or assist with the rescue of others during a diving emergency.
Levels of certification: Open Water (beginner - Tina's), Advanced, Rescue (Gabe's), Master Diver, Dive Master, Dive Instructor.
Many divers have expressed concern over the idea of setting a precedence of manslaughter over the death of a diving buddy. "Prosecutor Brendan Campbell told the court the manslaughter plea was accepted on the basis that Watson failed in his duty as Tina's dive buddy by not giving her emergency oxygen."
As one poster so eloquently stated on Scubaboard: "I think it would be sad day when the law imposed a legal obligation to rescue with consequences on the rescuer for failing to do so adequately. There would be nothing more disasterous than a rescuer feeling by legal obligation to attempt or continue an attempt at rescue, and thereby falling victims themselves.."
Both beginner divers and rescue divers are taught to stay away from divers who are panicking because a panicking diver can drown another diver by grabbing at regulators and masks. In order to hold other divers to a rescue standard, it was very important that this case establish whether or not Tina was panicking to the point to make rescue too dangerous and this manslaughter conviction did not address nor answer that very important question.