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Diving victim was Pendleton Marine

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SAN DIEGO – The body of a missing scuba diver off of Mission Beach was recovered and identified as a Camp Pendleton Marine Sunday.

The body of 26-year-old Staci Jackson was found in the Yukon, a former Canadian minesweeper that landed on the ocean bottom at an unintended angle, potentially trapping scuba divers, other enthusiasts said.

The accident wSunken Ship as reported about 2:30 p.m., and Jackson was first spotted by recreational divers at the sunken ship about 4:30 p.m. Because of the fading daylight and rough surface conditions, authorities had planned to recover the body at first light.

San Diego lifeguards and U.S. Coast Guard personnel helped recover the body Sunday.

“We recovered the body about 9:30 a.m. and it has been transported to our operations dock at Mission Bay Lifeguard headquarters,” said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum Sunday.  “There was some form of entanglement witnessed by the recreational divers who located her body.”

Divers told officials the entanglement seemed suspicious, but authorities ruled the death accidental.

Lerum said Jackson was having trouble maintaining buoyancy and when her dive partner, who was a dive master, tried to help her, he got separated from Jackson and surfaced too quickly.  Her dive partner was hospitalized after getting the bends.

David Pierce, director of the San Diego Council of Divers, has dived the Yukon site and said it presents dangers.

“The ship is actually laying on its side, it did not go down properly,” Pierce said. ”Because it’s on its side, divers can get disoriented in there pretty quickly.”

Pierce said he knew of a diving instructor several years ago who got into the engine room of the Yukon, which had been welded shut. That diver got tangled in the wreckage, ran out of air and drowned.

“The bottom of the wreck is 100 feet down and at that depth you might have only 17 minutes of air time down there,” Pierce said.

Jackson was part of a diving class with four students that was off the motor vessel Humboldt, authorities said.  Jackson had five years diving experience and was taking a dive master certification course.

The depth of the 366-foot Yukon, a Canadian destroyer sunk to form an artificial reef in 2000, ranges from about 55 feet to 100 feet.

Other people have died diving the Yukon since 2000.

Travis Hull is a former dive instructor who has made dozens of dives to the Yukon.  Even though Hull didn’t personally know Jackson, he said he and other divers were mourning her death.

“The dive community in San Diego is particularly close, so anytime anything like this happens everyone comes together,” Hull said.

26 comments

  • Angry

    I find it hard to believe that the dive master couldn't do anything to help her. My goodness they left her down there!

  • Concerned Diver

    Sounds like the DM was not qualified. Anyone who loses control of their buoyancy on a 100' dive to the extent that they actually surface does not have the watermanship to be in a leadership role.

  • Danielle

    THIS IS BULLCRAP!!! Poor conditions? But they were under there long enough to see her! And whoever was her dive master needs to lose his certification because he made a bad judgement call by allowing them to dive in those kind of conditions!! My sister would still be here if those responsible would have post-poned the mission for a few days until the surf was safe! And they need to decommissioned this dive site due to the fact that 3 other divers died here! Each story I read about this pisses me off more and more because what it boils down to is someone was being careless!

    • Concerned Diver

      While I agree that the leadership staff on this dive appears to have made numerous poor judgement calls and executed this dive poorly, the site itself is as safe as any wreck diving site can be. I've dove there myself numerous times and have never come close to having any issues with it. On the contrary, it's a beautiful and interesting site. But it does have inherent challenges, including compound ones, that need to be understood and managed to keep the dive safe. In this case, that wasn't done. Sadly, Staci probably could have been saved by simply dropping her weights. $30 worth of lead is not worth a person's life.

      • Mac

        I am a certified Commercial Diver here in Miami and her Father, Staci has assisted me diving since she was 10, she knew the hazards and in fact her weights were dropped, wearing a 7mm wetsuit. She is a 135 lb U.S. Marine who consistently finished in the top 5% of her PT tests, The Coroner reported bruising on her face possibly from strong currents smashing her against the hull. Her diving gear and that of the instructor are being tested at the Scripp Institue, hers was recently serviced and the BC is new, comparisons from the dive computer profile should be consistent up until the time she slipped away from him and having an uncontrolled ascent.
        I wont speculate on anything until the investigation is done, as a DM I would have grasped he BC securely made eye contact released her weights first indicate her to "Look up Swim Up" held onto her and finned up with the student, adding air to a BC while surfacing is practically begging for an uncontrolled ascent. But let's wait for facts.

        • OCLawyer

          I just wanted to drop you a quick note to express my deepest condolences for your loss. I am an instructor in So. California and work with The Scuba Center at Camp Pendleton as well as Oceanside Scuba & Swim. My wife and daughters have been my dive buddies for years, and I can hardly imagine how terrible you must feel about the incident. Again, my prayers are with you and your family.

  • C Pearce

    The telling thing is that 2 other dive boats, the Lois Ann, and Marissa, cancelled the dive that day because of the conditions. Also, I understand that one of the divers in the past that died was on the Humboldt. He was diving without a buddy. Seems to me that the Humboldt folks need to brush up on safety and become more cautious.

    My condolences to her family and friends.

  • Diver

    Well, Diving is dangerous! Every time you strap on a tank and breath from a regulator, your taking your life in your own hands. Nobody forces you to dive, you can call any dive any time. I HAVE DONE THAT! If it looks ify, if it looks bad, if I just don't feel well, I call the dive (or at least me not going down). truth be told, once you go underwater, with or without a buddy, you better be ready to not get into trouble or get out of trouble. NOBODY forces you to dive. Diving is not a "Sit under a tree eating cup cakes and drinking tea" kinda of a sport. While 3 people have died at the yukon ( An one of the them died by breaking the rules and opening a door that was welded! Really? How stupid can you be! I knew that diver, and he got the bends like 3 times, he was a reckless diver). There have been thousands of divers that have dove the yukon and come up safe. Should the dive boat called the dive? Maybe? But Staci Jacksons life was her responsability not the dive boat. She had every right not to dive. She was getting her Dive Master Certification, for you non divers, that means, she did , at least, her open water certification, advance course, rescue diver course, and had to have at least 60 dives under her belt. She knew better! I feel bad for her family and friends, I truly do. But, sorry if this sounds harsh, her error in judgement killed her.

    • richard

      diving is something not to be taken lightly and often people dont take the proper precautions. We could only hope for ideal conditions however the ocean is never predictable. ive dove the yukon at least 6x and its an excellent site to dive but seriously the corridors are narrow and people like to push boundaries by entering when they could get as much satisfaction from observing from afar. my condolences are with her family.

    • gen

      You are really harsh. I am her close cousin, and live in Philly. We here love her very much. You are intitled to your own opinion no matter how small. But the truth be told we love her. We are aware she died doing exactly what she loved and what gives us comfort is knowing her love for the Lord. And knowing that she is home with her creator. So please do yourself a favor and just pray for us and her mother father and brother to live their lives as well as Staci lived hers. Thank you.

  • Gloria

    Mean and heartless is all I can say! Her life was precious and she is gone!!! Have you no compassion?? Wow….cold hearted, indeed. I knew her, and her life mattered to me!

    • richard

      These people commenting have stated nothing but the truth….every life has worth and these commenters have expressed valid points gloria to which a nondiver like yourself would not understand. My condolences are with her family and to those who knew her

  • Mac

    Every diver has the right not to dive, However a DM has the RESPONSIBILITY of ensuring the safety of his students, I am an ACDE Certified Commercial Diver and PADI since 1996, And Staci's Father, She is an Active duty Marine in top physical condition, I can't help but wondering Who and where was her dive buddy? I always drilled that into her to remain in the same relative position of your buddy so they don't have to look around for you, If you want to move to a different position get your buddy's attention first.Two Dm's and four students Everyone got separated? five people couldn't assist a 5'2" 135 Lb person? the upper half of the hull is in 55 fsw? which would have given more breathing time, the coroner who actually was on the recovery team confirmed her weight belt was off and she was wearing a 7mm wet suit and steel tank, I will accept that it was an accident however it is a needless one. The dive computers being tested will give further explanations. However none of this will return a Daddy's Girl back to him!

    • Bill P.

      Mac: Buoyancy-wise, something doesn't sounds right about your assertion that her weight belt was off and yet she still sank, and remained, on the bottom. A 135 pound person, wearing a 7 mm wetsuit (and presumably neoprene hood, boots, and gloves), using one of the Humbolt's steel 85 cylinders would still need a certain amount of lead in order to overcome the buoyancy characteristics of all that neoprene. Sans that lead, the diver would be too buoyant to remain underwater.

      Deepest condolences. A great many of us here in Dan Diego await the final medical examiners report with sadness.

  • Jacque Hile

    Something definately doesn’t sound right about this situation, but I’m not going to be pointing fingers or playing the blame game until all the facts are in. My sincerest condolences to the Jacksons. Anastasia was a good friend, and I’ll never forget all the fun times we had from the moment we met in Pensacola. I only wish I could be there for the service to say “See you later.”

  • LocalDivePro

    Very unfortunate and sad. Bottom line, dive boat was negligient in taking them out in extreme poor conditions so they could make $$$$, dive instructor and DM were negligient in making the dive, dm student as an experienced diver could of aborted the dive before it started. Peer pressure rules in those conditions. Once in the water in those conditions, all bets off on outcome. Dove Yukon about 50 times, PADI diver for 36 years, prior us navy diver, PADI instructor, and commercial dive boat captain. Thus, have a little experience on the subject. Damn shame a 26 year old Marine is gone for a fun dive. Same age as my daughter.

  • BuzoJefe

    My condolences to the family, friends and shipmates of Stacy… Currently getting my Master Diver Cert. My instructor chose to do class room work instead of diving that weekend specifically because of the conditions.
    I've dove this wreck and it's a nice dive, and as safe as a wreck can be… I look forward to diving it again. But it, and all dives, can be dangerous. Very sad day as this is suppose to be fun and enjoyable. I've thought about her quite a bit over the last couple of days, especially as we go thru our class…. I'll be thinking of her next time I dive and when I dive the Yukon again.

  • Shan

    What I don't understand is that she was with a class. Her partner was a DM. Where was the instructor, where was her partner, and why didn't they have the skills to assist her? They've got the training at that level. Where was the boat's Divemaster? From my experience, and I've been on several boats here in San Diego, the divemaster is never even geared up or ready to go if there is an emergency. It's seems to me that there were so many mistakes made here. If a diver gets into trouble, training teaches that your buddy comes to assist. Why did they leave her down there? I'm disgusted with the attitude that it was her fault. She didn't go into that water thinking she would have problems, she was trained. But she did have problems and it sounds like no one followed protocol to help her. This could happen to anyone. Divers should review rescue skills, and skills that they learned in their classes for dive emergencies. I've seen some very bad instructors out there, and several people that are divemasters that are some of the worst divers. I'm surprised we don't have more diver deaths. It really is frightening.

  • michelle

    We are all devastated! Her family in San Diego just spent the last 5 days during the Thanksgiving holiday with her in our home/her home where she would come often to spend downtime from work. Staci was a joy who truly loved life! The mere thought that this untimely death could have been avoided makes the grieving process difficult. I am a native San Diegian so it's very hard to know my niece died in those waters I so ofter visted, and drive by regularly. This is just awful. May God keep her mother, father, brother and those to close to Staci strong during this difficult time.

  • Mark S

    I didn’t know her but I work with a family member of hers. God bless her, her family and friends. I am so sorry to hear about the accident. My condolences to all that are hurting.

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