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FL: 2 Tampa area divers die while hunting lobsters in Keys

2 Tampa area divers die while hunting lobsters in Keys
August 6, 2009

Authorities say two Tampa Bay area men died in separate diving accidents in the Florida Keys while hunting for lobster Thursday.

Monroe County sheriff's deputies said that Brian Harlin, 25, of Brandon was diving in the Indian Key Channel with his family about 8 a.m. Thursday. He was in the water with his father, and they were using a third-lung device, also known as a hookah rig, when an air hose dislodged during the dive.

Both men made it to the surface, but as the boat approached to pick them up, Harlin began to struggle in a strong current and slipped underwater. When he was pulled aboard the vessel, relatives tried to revive him, but couldn't.

Harlin was brought ashore at a boat ramp, where paramedics were waiting. They took him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, deputies said.

About 60 miles south of Islamorada on Summerland Key, 32-year-old Courtney Spikes of Trinity dove for lobster in a canal around noon Thursday.

He was in the water about five minutes when he surfaced and yelled that he was drowning.

His wife was watching from shore and jumped in to help him, deputies said, but he had slipped below the surface, and she had trouble finding him because the water was murky. Two nearby divers nearby searched for Spikes and after 11 minutes found him and pulled him to shore, deputies said.

Spikes was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin said this morning that foul play was not suspected and the men are scheduled for autopsies in Monroe County.

Lobster season began Thursday, she said, and tourists flock to the Keys at the beginning of the season. About 10 to 15 lobster divers drown each season, which lasts until March, Herrin said.

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