Florida Keys News
Thursday, October 10, 2013
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Storm brewing for Keys divers
Coast Guard looks into 'spout chasers

The Coast Guard is investigating two Florida Keys divers who made a splash on the Internet and TV news stations last week after they posted a video of themselves entering a waterspout.

Investigative service agents are looking into whether Aaron Osters and Kevin Johnson are licensed Coast Guard boat captains, and if they are, whether they should be civilly reprimanded, said Coast Guard Sector Key West Deputy Cmdr. John Reed.

Osters is the owner of Bandito Spearguns and Florida Keys Kiteboarding.

There were no other people on the boat.

The men were snorkeling for lobster in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of the Seven Mile Bridge when they steered their small 17-foot skiff directly into one of seven waterspouts. The waterspout was 30 feet wide and had a vortex that was 15 feet wide. They captured the event with both photos and a video.

If either man is a licensed captain, such behavior may warrant sanctions, but the Coast Guard probably would not attempt to strip either man of a captain's license. Instead, the license holder would probably receive a warning in the form of a letter, Reed said.

Reed said attempts to reach Osters and Johnson by phone Wednesday were not successful.

"It's not a criminal offense, but there are a list of things you have to follow if you have a mariner's license, regardless of whether you have paying customers on board," he said.

The Coast Guard used the incident to remind mariners of the dangers waterspouts can pose.

"Waterspouts should be avoided by both professional and recreational boaters," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Capelli. "A waterspout is a small tornado and poses the same dangers as a tornado on land. It can toss people overboard. It can lift debris off the deck and potentially hit you and knock you out. And, God forbid, you get thrown overboard, the boat overturns and you lose your radio. Then no one knows you were even there, and that could delay a Coast Guard response."

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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