The family of Canadian filmmaker and diver Rob Stewart is suing over his death
Sharkwater filmmaker Rob Stewart went missing after surfacing from a deep dive in Florida earlier this year - he was found three days later after a vast search.
Stewart's family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against Peter Sotis and others. Stotis is a well-known figure in the rebreather diving community who was with Stewart when the two men surfaced after a 68m (225 ft) dive on the wreck of the Queen of Nassau on 31 January. They were using rebreather equipment from Sotis’ company, Add Helium, during the dives.
Add Helium is named in the case, according to a press release by the Canadian family's Florida lawyers - Haggard Law Firm.
The men were on their third dive that day filming the next instalment of Stewart’s Sharkwater documentary series. When they surfaced, Sotis appeared to have breathing difficulties, and the crew of the dive boat Pisces rushed him on board.
When they turned around to retrieve Stewart, he was gone. Three days later, after a massive, multi-agency, 15,500 sq km (6,000 sq mile) search, divers with the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department located his body on the sea floor at 65m, near to where he was last seen on the surface. He was 37.
Sotis has a history of legal issues, including being one of four defendants to plead guilty in a $300,000 jewellery robbery in Florida in 1991, a conviction that resulted in Sotis serving nearly three years in federal prison, according to press reports from the time. His latest legal troubles include a lawsuit filed by his former business partner in which he’s accused, among other things, of selling military-grade scuba gear to a Libyan militant last August, and selling non-certified compressed air tanks to the company’s customers.
'The Stewart family hopes the legal action will push out and/or change the ways of all irresponsibly operating diving businesses and help keep attention on Stewart’s mission of ocean conservation,' a spokesman for Haggard said.