Diver rescued off coast of Key West after going missing for hours at dusk

A diver was rescued off of Key West by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

KEY WEST, Fla. – One wife’s biggest fear almost became a terrifying reality when her husband disappeared beneath the waves of the ocean while out on a dive as the sun set before a rainstorm.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), it all started on August 11, when the diver, Daryl Sample, was on a dive and went under at approximately 4:15 p.m. with his tank and gear in the Calda Channel off of Key West.

Over an hour later, his wife became concerned when they could no longer locate him, and called the FWC at approximately 7:10 p.m.

Two FWC officers, FWC Officer Daniel Jones, along with FWC Officer Ryan Livingston, responded and took the patrol boat out of the City Marina in Key West and headed to Calda Channel.

They arrived to the vessel where Sample had dived from at around 7:50 p.m., cautiously close to the time of the sunset, which was at 8:02 p.m.

Adding to the challenges ahead them, there were several storm clouds moving in, and rain and lightning was off in the distance. The wind had also picked up speed, and there were some bigger swells sweeping through.

Then, the officers spoke with the diver’s wife and their son and gathered more information.

The United States Coast Guard had a marine unit already on scene and had started a grid search pattern. They also had their air unit flying around the location as well.

That’s when a miracle happened.

As Jones and Livingston headed to the Coast Guard’s vessel to assist with the search pattern, Sample’s wife started blowing her air horn.

They all started pointing to the North-East of the officers’ direction, so Livingston grabbed the wheel as Jones grabbed his binoculars to scan the water with.

Finally, they spotted Sample, about 200 yards away from their position, who had been treading the water with all of his gear for over 45 minutes — just seconds from the sun being down long enough for it to be too dark to see.

When they pulled him into the vessel and helped him board all of his gear, he looked exhausted and relieved — he couldn’t thank the officers enough.

Thankfully, Sample didn’t need to see a doctor, but certainly needed to relax and catch his breath.

As soon as everyone was back on board, the sun had been down and it was just about too dark to see. The rain clouds had managed to pass around them until this point, but now there was one headed straight for them.

According to the officers, the “rain started coming down really hard and fast, and it was even coming in sideways.”

The officers then escorted Sample and his family back through the Calda Channel during the rainstorm.

For more information on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, click here.