Family of Canadian filmmaker who died during dive files wrongful-death lawsuit

Lawsuit cites negligence in death of Rob Stewart

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The family of a Canadian filmmaker who died while diving in the Florida Keys earlier this year is suing the dive company and its owner for negligence.

An attorney for the family of Rob Stewart held a news conference Tuesday morning in Coral Gables to announce the wrongful-death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Broward County, claims that Stewart's death could have been prevented and that the defendants "had a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers."

File: Rob Stewart lawsuit

Named in the lawsuit are Horizon Dive Adventures, Fort Lauderdale-based Add Helium, its owner, Peter Sotis, and his wife, Claudia Sotis.

The lawsuit alleges that the Delray Beach couple "supervised, planned, ordered or controlled" Stewart's final dive Jan. 31 at the Queen of Nassau wreck site near Islamorada. He disappeared shortly after resurfacing, and his body was found three days later.

Stewart family attorney Michael Haggard called the incident an "unbelievably preventable tragedy."

Sotis passed out after getting on the boat while Stewart was still in the water, Stewart's parents and their attorney said Tuesday.

Peter Sotis is named in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart.

"In the mass confusion of him passing out on the boat, no one, no one from that boat, from Horizon Divers, from Add Helium, kept an eye on Rob Stewart," Haggard told reporters.

Stewart's father said the dive crew lost sight of Stewart while they were tending to Sotis on the boat.

"The self-interest of Peter Sotis is the reason Rob's dead right now," Brian Stewart said.

Brian Stewart also criticized Horizon Dive Adventures for not having eyes in the water.

Stewart's family is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 and a jury trial.

Stewart directed the 2006 documentary "Sharkwater." He was in the Keys working on the sequel at the time of his death.

About the Authors:

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.