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Durban - The last time Helmut Stegen saw his daughter Adele was the day before she did her final deep technical dive near Aliwal Shoal to recover a piece of equipment which had fallen off a research vessel.
Before saying goodbye, he reminded her she was only searching for “a piece of metal”, not worth risking her life for.
That was Stegen’s last goodbye to Adele, 45. She and her experienced diving partner, Peter Timm, 51, died on Wednesday after aborting their dive at 60m.
It is not known what happened to cause Adele to surface too quickly. She was reportedly dead when she surfaced. Timm followed her and died a few minutes later.
“She was at our house on the weekend when Peter called her and told her about the dive,” an emotional Stegen, 74, said on Thursday.
“She asked me whether she should do it or not, and as I always do when she asks my advice, I told her it was her decision.”
Their family was extremely close-knit, and although Adele did not have children, she and her two teenage nephews were close.
“She would be here to visit almost every day. She would just pop in. This weekend she was visiting and the whole family got together. We had a nice time,” Stegen said softly.
And then Timm’s call came.
“He was like family. Adele spoke very highly of him.
“He was her mentor and he always looked after her so well.”
Reminiscing, Stegen said his daughter’s ambition had been to see a coelacanth, and in March that is exactly what she had done.
“She sent us a photo of it,” he said proudly, before adding: “Adele dived with such enthusiasm, but she was so careful and thorough.
“I just keep on expecting her to walk through the door.”
Adele’s parents had been wary of her deep dives, but knew their daughter had plenty of experience.
“I would always tell her to please be careful and check all her equipment, which she always did more than once. She was so thorough.”
Despite the risks associated with diving, Stegen said he had encouraged Adele to follow her passion.
“I always said to her: ‘Don’t be afraid of your fears. If you want to do something then you must do it’. I would tell her not to live her fears, but to live her life.”
On Thursday, tributes poured in for the pair, who were known for partnering on dives. Adele was also one of the partners at Timm’s company, Trident Dive Charters.
Staff did not want to talk to the media, but social media sites were abuzz with condolences.
Ezemvelo Wildlife said Timm, an honorary Ezemvelo officer, had been one of the most experienced and well-respected technical divers in the country.
His passion had gone beyond the marine environment and he assisted in many operations involving wildlife crime, including the fight against rhino poaching.
Jean Harris, the head of Ezemvelo’s Scientific Division, said Timm’s enthusiasm on both land and water had been contagious. “Conservation has lost a true ambassador,” she said.
On Twitter, one message from Ryan Rambaran read: “Sometimes our passion kills us, but I guess that’s not a bad way to go. In a way, it’s actually kind of beautiful. RIP Peter Timm.”