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 was 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.