Manila: Three technical divers, composed of a Filipino, a British national and an American were lauded for extracting on Tuesday the body of Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo from the Piper Seneca plane that crashed and landed at 55 metres under the Masbate Bay in central Philippines last Saturday, a local paper reported.
Matt Reed, 35, was diving with Anna Cu Unjieng, 37, a Filipino, and Shelagh Cooley, 29, an American, when he saw Robredo’s body and the upturned fuselage of the Piper Seneca in the depths of the Masbate Pass at ast seven on Tuesday morning, the Inquirer said.
“Matt is probably the most experienced technical diver in the Philippines,” David Joyce, an Irish national and Reed’s partner in Evolution, a popular dive resort in Malapascua island in Cebu, central Philippines, told the Inquirer.
Reed refused to be interviewed, adding he could talk about his expertise after the bodies of all victims have been retrieved.
Last Monday, the Philippine National Police headquarters in Central Visayas asked the three divers to help other divers who have been trying to look for Robredo, the plane’s pilot and owner of Aviatour Travel, Jessup Cahinting, and a student pilot, Kshitiz Chand from Nepal, Police Chief Supt. Vicente Loot also told the Inquirer.
Loot said he assisted the team by carrying their diving equipment, including four tanks that contain different gases, regulators for decompression and re-breather units that process the gas exhaled by the diver, so he can inhale it again.
The three technical divers were ferried from Cebu to Masbate by a Philippine Air Force plane on Monday.
The team dove at 6 in the morning. They saw the plane’s fuselage and brought up the body of Robredo to a Coast Guard vessel at 7:25 Tuesday morning, Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang told Rappler, a news website.
What Reed documented in his underwater camera was used for the rescue effort, said Carandang, but other sources said the documentation could be used for investigation.
Reed was only 17 when he became a recreational diver. When he turned 21, he decided to be a technical diver. He completed his open water course on Gozo Island in the Mediterranean and was a certified diver in 1990. He has logged 6,000 dives since then, Joyce said.
Lured by Southeast Asia’s divers’ spots, he “hits the water almost every day,” Joyce said, adding that Reed teaches cave and wreck diving, and courses on the use of gas and re-breather in technical diving.
Discipline and well-trained technical divers can go to a maximum depth of 40 metres, and a slow ascent at 90 minutes to two hours or three metres per minute.
Joyce said he did not join the three technical divers because his wife was about to deliver a baby.
A German technical diver, Danny Brumbach, lost consciousness when he reached 60 feet under the sea. He survived what divers call as decompression sickness.