Shark-diving industry mourns deaths


By Brian Indrelunas

Shark-diving expeditions were cancelled for a second day on Monday as the industry mourned the deaths of three foreign tourists in a boating accident near Gansbaai on Sunday.

The three men were on board the 11-metre Shark Team when a wave described by witnesses as "massive" and "tsunami-like" overturned the catamaran about half a nautical mile off Kleinbaai.

Christopher Tallman, 34, from San Francisco, California, was retrieved from beneath the boat by divers.

He had a pulse when brought ashore, but could not be resuscitated.

Casey Scott LaJeunesse, 35, from the American state of Maine, and 37-year-old Kenneth Roque, from Moss, Norway, were pronounced dead when rescuers brought them ashore.

Tallman and LaJeunesse, had been in South Africa for about a week and had planned to fly home today, said a friend, Jeandrë Horn, a systems analyst living in Pretoria.

Horn met LaJeunesse about two years ago when they worked together on a project in Angola.

He said LaJeunesse loved South Africa and had visited many times, last week bringing along his best friend from the United States, Tallman.

Horn was on holiday with the pair, but said he opted out of the shark-diving trip because he tended to become seasick.

His friends, however, were excited about shark-diving.

"We were up (on Saturday night) talking about this until two or three in the morning."

Horn said LaJeunesse was an honest, career-driven person who loved to travel, "just an all-around great guy, very loved by his family and all his friends".

Tallman "was a great person as well, very funny and intelligent".

Officials at the American consulate-general said they were in touch with Tallman and Lajeunesse's families and working on arrangements for the handling of their remains.

According to the Norwegian embassy, the family of Roque was in shock and had not yet decided what should be done with the body.

As is customary, three inquest dockets have been opened.

They are being investigated by the Gansbaai police.

Shark Team was righted using a crane in Gansbaai harbour on Sunday night and taken by trailer to Kleinbaai, where the shark-diving operator White Shark Projects was based, said Mariette Hopley, industry spokesperson and chairperson of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation.

The boat had been inspected on Monday by the SA Maritime Safety Authority, police and an insurance broker, Hopley said.

brian.indrelunas@inl.co.za


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