'Golf Ball Recovery Dive' Fatality Results In Prison Sentence

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'Golf Ball Recovery Dive' Fatality Results In Prison Sentence

July 12, 2017 - 15:58
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The UK Health and Safety Executive has issued a statement confirming that a 26 year-old-man has received a prison sentence following the death of an untrained diver with learning difficulties at Peterstone Lakes Golf Club, Wales, UK.

On the morning of 11 February 2016, 29 year-old Gareth Pugh was diving a shallow 2.4 mt / 8 ft lake at Peterstone Lakes Golf Course in Cardiff.

The father-of-one had been hired on an ad-hoc basis by 'Boss Golf Balls' to collect golf balls from the lakes on the Welsh golf course. Pugh was not officially on 'Boss Golf Balls' books, and was typically paid between £20 - £40 per day.

Pugh was wearing unsuitable equipment, had no diving experience or qualifications, and it was the first time he had used diving equipment. In addition, Pugh had ADHD and learning difficulties - at the age of 13 he had a mental age of a nine-year-old.

it was the first time he [Gareth Pugh] had used diving equipment

Pugh was diving a hookah - a surface supply system. This system includes a small compressor that is housed in a floating rubber ring. The compressed air is delivered to the diver via a long hose, approximately 2 mt / 7ft long.

Gareth Pugh had already completed a successful dive earlier in the day and had surfaced mid-morning-ish with a full bag of golf balls. Pugh took a break to eat something. He then commenced his second dive around midday.

Dale Pike, a founder and partner of Boss Golf Balls was supervising Pugh. However it was clear that the measures in place to ensure the diver's safety were inadequate, and, in fact Pike blatantly and knowingly ignored health and safety guidelines. Pike was not qualified to dive nor supervise others diving on the day Pugh died, and Pike would not have been effective as a rescuer because one of his arms was in plaster.

At approximately 12.30pm it became clear that the diver was in trouble. Pike noticed that the previously intermittent stream of bubbles coming to the surface were now constant, and that the inflatable carrying the compressor had floated away to the edge of the lake. It is not clear what happened to Gareth Pugh. It is thought that he lost his airway at this time, hence the hookah system had drifted on the lake surface. It is not known when he lost his mask.

Dale Pike flagged down the Green Keepers who telephoned the clubhouse requesting that they ring the Emergency Services.

Dale Pike and the Green Keepers then attempted an unsuccessful search whilst they waited for the Emergency Services. Gwent Police Detective Sergeant David Trew subsequently told Cardiff Crown Court, "Dale had been into the water prior to the emergency services arriving.”

When the Police Diving Team arrived on site, Gareth Pugh's precise location was unknown. The Police used a boat and underwater cameras to successfully locate Gareth Pugh. He was found with his feet pointing upwards, weighed down by a weighted belt and a 16kg / 35lb bag of 341 golf balls he had retrieved. Pugh was recovered, however he had been submerged for approximately 70 minutes and he could not be resuscitated.

DS Trew later informed Cardiff Crown Court that "the conditions in the lake were atrocious - there was so much fine silt on the bottom. So as soon as you enter (the police dive team said) you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

Following the fatality Dale Pike (25), along with his father Jonathan (47) were charged with manslaughter by gross negligence. Subsequently Prosecutors stated it was not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution of Jonathan Pike. A formal "not guilty" verdict was entered in the case of Jonathan Pike and he was discharged.

During the trial Iwan Jenkins of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Dale Pike stood by and watched as Gareth entered the water knowing that safety regulations were being breached and which resulted in Gareth losing his life. There was clear evidence Pike had made enquiries with legitimate dive operators to cost this activity but he chose not to use them, instead falsely claiming to prospective golf club that he was a qualified commercial diver with his own equipment" required to retrieve golf balls from ponds and lakes.

Dale Pike had previously been informed by certified dive professionals that in order to collect golf balls safely he would need a qualified team of five people, costing around £1,250 a day. However Pike only wanted to pay £40 a day.

It is clear the defendant [Dale Pike] knew that the activities he was undertaking were governed by Health and Safety Executive rules and he chose to ignore them

A health and safety investigation found there were 16 breaches of regulations, including no risk assessment, Gareth Pugh was not qualified to dive, he was not attached to a rope and the equipment he used was not suitable for the job.

DS Trew stated, “The breaches led to the death of Gareth Pugh and amounted to behaviour which was grossly negligent. The post-mortem report found nothing to indicate that his death was caused by anything other than by immersion.”

A spokesperson from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: “While this was a police investigation and a local authority prosecution, HSE provided the support of diving specialists. This was a real team effort following the death of a father and popular community member and we are proud to have played our part. This case is a potentially significant outcome within the diving industry.”

Boss Golf Balls

Dale Pike (25), along with his father Jonathan (47) founded ‘Boss Golf Balls’. This business venture would search for and then recover golf balls that were submerged in lakes and other bodies of water on golf courses. Boss Golf Balls would pay golf courses 10p for every golf ball collected. The balls were washed before being sold online. Boss Golf Balls typically charged up to £30.99 for a pack of 20 balls.