Man who drowned in Kailua Bay remembered as expert free-diver

Christopher Nee
Christopher Nee

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Medical Examiner catalogued what killed Christopher Nee of Kailua as "asphyxia due to drowning."

In a telephone interview from his home in Portland, Oregon, Greg Nee said younger brother lived for the sport of free-diving.

"He died doing what he did best and what he loved most, more than anything else. He was in the ocean," he said.

Nee went missing late Saturday, after getting separated from his dive partner in Kailua Bay. Sunday morning, searchers found his body 400 yards off-shore in twenty feet of water.

"It looked to be a murky day, as far as the water conditions were concerned. You can get lost. You can get separated," Greg Nee said.

Free-divers don't use oxygen tanks. They hold their breath and stay down for minutes hunting fish.

"A lot of divers today, they dive anywhere from five feet to 150 feet, for really experienced divers," said longtime free-diver Kyle Nakamoto.

Kris Tyler owns spear fishing store Westside Dive and Tackle. He teaches free-diver safety classes that preach the buddy system. He urges people who want to free dive to get trained. He estimates free-diving averages a death a month worldwide.

"There is a pretty high incidence of divers dying from shallow water blackout or drowning," he said.

"A lot of times these accidents do occur, even to the best," Nakamoto said.

Greg Nee said his brother never blacked out before, and he knew the prospect of an accident happening.

"It's part of the challenge of what they do. And it's part of the risk," Greg Nee said. "It was nobody's fault. It happened.

Nee was 54, lived in Kailua, and free-dived most of his life. He is survived by a daughter.  Greg Nee said a heart attack, stroke, and bad hip couldn't keep his younger brother out of the water, so it's fitting his life ended where it did.

To learn more about free-diver safety courses call Westside Dive and Tackle at 228-2295.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved