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Company boss dies in wreck diving tragedy.

Byline: PAUL BRADLEY

The director of a Midlands heating company has died from a suspected case of the bends during an underwater filming project of Titanic's sister ship.

Carl Spencer, aged 37, a director for Hednesford-based firm Spencair, was part of a 17-member crew commissioned by the National Geographic magazine to film the wreck of HMHS Britannic.

Colleagues said Mr Spencer, a master diver, began experiencing discomfort during a routine dive in the Straits of Kea, a small island about 150 nautical miles south-east of Athens.

When he began convulsing his dive team took the decision to bring him to the surface.

By the time he had been hauled up he was unconscious and he was taken to Athens Naval Hospital by helicopter, but did not regain consciousness and died 35 minutes later.

Today, a family member revealed that he died doing a job that he was "absolutely passionate" about.

Mr Spencer's second cousin, Jayne Howarth, said: "It has been a terrible shock for all of his family and we are devastated for his wife and two children.

"He was one of the country's most expert divers, but he was also a very modest man. Even though he was an expert diver and could fly helicopters he told people he was just a plumber from Cannock.

"He was a passionate diver and he loved everything about it.

"He will be sorely missed by all of us." A spokesman for Spencair said last night that staff at the company were still trying to come to terms with their boss's death.

The spokesman added that a decision on how to pay tribute to Mr Spencer will be made when workers return from their bank holiday break today..

Mr Spencer was part of a team filming the wreck of Britannic, the British World War I hospital ship that sank in 1916 after hitting a mine.

The Britannic Foundation, headed by British businessman Simon Mills, wants to preserve the ship.

Greek Ministry of Merchant Marine spokeswoman, Aspa Papadopoulou, said Mr Spencer was found "unconscious with decompression sickness symptoms".

"Everything was done to save his life," she said. "A fully-equipped military Super Puma helicopter took him to the best possible hospital in Athens and even in flight every possible method of artificial respiration was tried to resuscitate him.

"The helicopter landed at the military airport of Katechaki, on the outskirts of Athens, after which he was rushed to the Athens Naval Hospital because there is a decompression chamber there." Mr Spencer was one of Britain's most experienced wreck divers and was leading the filming expedition.

The possibility that faulty equipment caused his death has not yet been ruled out with the coroner's report expected later today.

A spokeswoman for National Geographic in the UK said: "The National Geographic team on location is working closely with Greek authorities, who are leading the investigation.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Carl's family and friends." Mr Spencer was an "experienced mixed gas and closed circuit rebreather diver" who had been on three previous missions to film the Britannic.

This included taking part in an exploration of the Titanic wreckage as part of a Discovery Channel expedition led by filmmaker James Cameron, who directed the 1997 blockbuster Titanic.

The bends, or decompression sickness, is caused by surfacing too quickly after a deep dive.

The condition can cause rashes, joint pain, headaches, and paralysis but death only occurs in extreme cases.

Mr Spencer's wife was last night too distressed to comment.." He was one of the country'smost expert divers, but hewas also a very modest man COUSIN JAYNE HOWARTH

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Expert diver Carl Spencer who died while diving HMHS Britannic
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:May 26, 2009
Words:611
Previous Article:Investigating the mystery of HMHS Britannic's sinking.
Next Article:Man is charged over attack on support officer.


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