Deputies responded to Sugarloaf KOA Campground just before noon Sunday. A private vessel, a 25 foot center console Whitewater, was en route to shore with a possible dive accident victim on board.
When the vessel arrived at the dock, it was met by deputies and paramedics from Monroe County Fire/Rescue. The victim, 16 year old Kevin Piper, Jr. was breathing, but unconscious; he was transported to Lower Keys hospital along with his father, who was also on the boat. Piper was later airlifted to Miami where he reportedly died on Tuesday.
Others on board told Deputy Linda Kohout they were diving off the oceanside, near Maryland Shoal. It was reportedly their second dive. Piper was diving by himself at approximately 120 feet with his friend, 17 year old Zane Osborn, free diving above him. According to Osborn, Piper suddenly began to surface quickly; Osborn said he tried to tell Piper to slow down, but Piper motioned to him that he was out of air.
Once Piper surfaced, he told Osborn he felt “really weird”. Another friend, 28 year old Robert Pippin Jr., says at that point he jumped into the water and brought Piper on board the boat. He said Piper was breathing, but would not respond to anyone. That is when they called for help and headed for shore.
Deputies took custody of Piper’s gear at the scene; the gauge on his dive tanks showed it to be empty.
Detectives will be investigating the incident.