Family faults instructor – Sharkwater Stewart Death
The family of award-winning “Sharkwater” filmmaker and marine biologist, Rob Stewart, has filed a lawsuit claiming damages and blaming Stewart’s dive instructor and boat crew for his death.
Stewart went missing off the coast of the Florida Keys in January. His body was recovered after a three-day search by the Coast Guard.
Now, two months after Stewart’s death, the Canadian filmmaker’s grieving parents, Brian and Sandy Stewart, sat down with ABC News, along with their attorney Michael Haggard, to discuss the tragic incident.
“The is no way anyone should ever die the way Rob died and it’s the responsibility of the people involved that caused it,” said Brian Stewart. “Had somebody had their eyes on the water,” he continued, “you keep your eyes on the people in the water and of all things the student comes out first, not the diver.”
The complaint says that Stewart and his instructor, Peter Sotis, were diving the Queen of Nassau wreck to remove a grappling hook that had been attached to the underwater wreckage for navigational purposes to mark the wreck and assist in maintaining its location while divers were in the water. The hook was located 230-feet below the surface of the water off the coast of Islamorada, Florida.
Sotis and Stewart used new rebreathers — a piece of scuba diving equipment that controls the mix of oxygen supplied to the diver by recycling exhaled breath– for their dive. When Sotis reportedly resurfaced to board the boat due to issues breathing, he received “emergency aid,” while supervisors failed to “monitor, keep eyes on, and/or rescue” Stewart, according to the complaint.
“So many things went wrong,” said Sandy Stewart. “So many careless mistakes were made and [Rob] would want to make sure this didn’t happen to anyone else again.”
The family’s attorney told ABC News that those allegedly negligent actions are what led to the disappearance and death of their son. “The only reason Peter Sotis is alive today is he left his student in the water —- which is a cardinal sin in the diving industry,” Haggard said.
“He didn’t protect the student, he got on the boat and left his student in the water,” Haggard continued. “It’s so preventable that it’s scary.”
Sotis and the boat crew did not reply to ABC News’ request for comment.
Actor Adrian Grenier and entrepreneur Richard Branson posted emotional tributes on social media to Stewart after his death.
Brian Stewart said his son’s legacy will continue to live on. The Stewarts told ABC News they intend to finish shooting their son’s sequel and hope his story inspires others to explore.
“He always used to take off and go to another part of the world with his camera,” he said. “To us, a little part that makes me go on is the fact that he is still off shooting.”
He added, “Somehow what he wants done is going to be done.”