One of the two sailors who died during routine diving operations at a test pond at an Army site in Maryland was identified by the Navy and was a local Kansas City man.
Navy Diver Ryan Harris of Gladstone, Missouri was 2nd Class and the other sailor, James Reyher of Caldwell, Ohio was 28-year-old Navy Diver in the 1st Class. Harris and Reyher were assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va. The sailors belonged to a unit whose salvage operations have included TWA Flight 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, and the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.
The two Navy divers had been diving at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeastern Maryland. One diver was pronounced dead at the scene and the other was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead later.
A Harford County emergency response source said that in Tuesday’s incident, the divers were in cardiac arrest when they surfaced and had been working in the pond on air hoses and were tethered to each other.
They died during operations at Aberdeen’s Underwater Test Facility, nicknamed the “Super Pond.” The facility was used to conduct shock testing of vessels, submarine systems, and munitions. With a bottom measuring 300 feet in diameter and a maximum depth of 150 feet, the facility also has been used for testing torpedoes, missiles, warheads, amphibious and remotely controlled vehicles, underwater gun firing and acoustics.
Tuesday’s incident at Aberdeen’s Underwater Testing Facility occurred less than a month after George Lazzaro Jr., a 41-year-old engineering technician, died while performing routine maintenance on the test infrastructure at the same Navy site.
Kelly Luster, a spokesman for the Aberdeen Proving Ground, said that the deaths are not to be connected to the earlier incident. But officials report that Wednesday the testing facility had been closed for all diving operations until investigations for the recent deaths are done.
The incident is still undergoing investigation.
Harris graduated from Winnetonka in 2007 and was accepted into the Navy’s special warfare combatant-craft crewmen unit. Members of the unit are qualified in combat boat operations and parachuting and are experts at combat swimming, navigation, demolitions and weapons. They train in the jungle, in cold weather and in all maritime surroundings.
Harris was a wrestler his freshman year in high school and was a student council representative his senior year. He also was an Eagle Scout of the local Kansas City area.
Deputy Commander Capt. John Coffey said Wednesday, “Petty Officer Harris and Petty Officer Reyher were exceptional Sailors.”
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