Parents Blame Seattle Scuba for Daughter’s Death

Couple alleges the air wasn’t set correctly in her tank.

Jennifer Coyne had been a certified open-water diver for only two months when she took a trip with Seattle Scuba School to Lummi Rocks near Bellingham. Coyne descended on July 21, 2007. At 10:30 a.m. the Coast Guard was called in, and on July 24 she died. Last month, Coyne's parents, Kevin Coyne and Julie Simonds, filed suit in King County Superior Court, claiming it was Seattle Scuba's negligence that killed Jennifer. They are seeking unspecified damages. "This is a terrible, horrible, tragic loss that was completely avoidable," says their Bellevue-based attorney, Marc Silverman. According to the suit, filed May 14, Jennifer Coyne rented her equipment from Seattle Scuba, an affiliate of the Scuba Schools Group, a West Coast chain of diving schools. Coyne took Seattle Scuba's classes at Alki Point to get her certification. Her parents now contend that school owner Craig Gillespie improperly set the regulator that gets air from the tanks, making it too difficult to breathe. They allege the problem was compounded when Coyne was sent out with another inexperienced diver. The two descended about 60 feet, but Coyne was sluggish. Not long afterward, her partner found her unconscious. When Gillespie succeeded in pulling Coyne up, her stomach was filled with sea water, court records state. Emergency crews flew Coyne to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma, where she was put on life support. But she never regained consciousness. Simonds did not respond to attempts to contact her for this story, but she has created a MySpace page devoted to her daughter. Coyne got her certification while her mother and sister, living in Virginia, were pursuing theirs as well, according to the Web site. Simonds still went forward with her own certification, calling it bittersweet. Gillespie declined to comment for this story, but according to a court database, this is the first time Seattle Scuba has been sued in King County.

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