Husband tells of tragic accident

Deborah Ward
Deborah Ward

A Cleckheaton mother-of-two died on holiday after a diving accident, despite frantic attempts by her husband to save her, an inquest heard this week.

Deborah Ward, from Scholes Lane, was diving to explore a shipwreck off the coast of Malta, when she got into difficulties.

Her husband, Christopher Stephenson, was diving with her when he said he noticed that she was signalling that she wanted to get out.

By the time he managed to get her to the surface she had lost consciousness and, despite several attempts by to resuscitate her, she was pronounced dead later that evening.

The couple, who were both experienced divers, were on the island last October and were attempting to explore the wreck of the Rozi tugboat off Cirkewwa when she became distressed.

Mr Stephenson, who lives in Scholes Lane, said: “When she signalled to me, I knew something was wrong.

“When we had got to seven metres from the surface, her air regulator had fallen out and she had lost consciousness.

“I had to get her up to the surface fast – we got to the surface in less than 10 seconds – but you have no choice. You either hit the surface or drown.”

Despite the beach being busy, Mr Stephenson said he was only given help to resuscitate her once he had got her to a nearby ledge.

She was given oxygen and CPR but did not come round. An ambulance arrived 20 minutes later.

Mr Stephenson said his wife was taken to intensive care in the hospital at around 2pm, but she was pronounced dead at 11.20pm.

The two were holidaying with their 11-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter at the time, but the two did not witness the incident.

The pathologist, Dr David Gouldesbrough, said he believed she had suffered complications following barotrauma, which is internal damage following a sudden change in pressure outside the body.

The original pathologist’s report from Malta said this had caused a ruptured lung, but Dr Gouldesbrough said there was inconclusive proof of this in the UK autopsy.

Coroner Oliver Longstaff said the death had been caused by pressure-related injuries from barotrauma and he recorded a verdict of accidental death. Following the inquest Mr Stephenson said that his wife had been a dive-master at Morley-based Midway Watersports.

He added: “It is just difficult to believe that she could have died in that way with her experience.

“It is normally something that happens to a novice who makes a bolt for the surface.”