Florida Keys News
Monday, July 22, 2013
Interpol looks for dive boat owners
'Case not forgotten'

The Coast Guard is working with the international police organization Interpol to find the owners of a Key Largo dive boat on which a tourist died two years ago.

Aimee Rhoades, 36, of Washington state, drowned while trapped in the hull of the Get Wet that capsized near Molasses Reef in December 2011, according to the Coast Guard.

She was one of two divers trapped below deck on the dive vessel. Rhoades was pronounced dead by paramedics at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park while another diver, Amit Rampurkar, was critically hurt and was airlifted to a Miami hospital. Rampurkar did survive.

The 24.5-foot vessel had just left a mooring at Molasses Reef and was powering up when the boat began taking on water before it quickly capsized and sank, trapping customers in the forward cabin, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Coast Guard launched an investigation and subsequently indicted the boat's two British owners, Christopher Jones and Alison Gracey, said Coast Guard Investigative Service Resident in Charge Paul Shultz.

The indictment is sealed, so what, if any, charges either man face is unknown. Both left the U.S. before investigators determined who owned the vessel, Shultz said.

Shultz declined to comment on the specifics of how the Coast Guard is working with Interpol in locating the two men.

The boat failed a Coast Guard passenger vessel inspection, so the owners dropped the larger license that allowed them to carry more than six passengers and opted for what is known as a six-pack license.

That lesser designation allowed them to operate without the Coast Guard safety inspection required of larger vessels as long as they only took six passengers or less, Shultz said.

"Rather than fix the safety discrepancies, they just ran with six or less passengers," Shultz said. What those safety failures were are sealed in the indictment, he added.

When Interpol agents find the two owners they will be tried in the federal Southern District of Florida.

"The case has not been forgotten," Shultz said. "It frustrates me that federal cases sometimes take this long, but we haven't forgotten."

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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