Scuba diving assault caught on camera off Kona Coast

Scuba diving assault caught on camera off Kona Coast
Published: May. 14, 2014 at 12:58 AM HST
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KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - An assault is caught on camera 50 feet underwater. The video shows one diver ripping off the air supply of another diver. Now authorities are investigating.

Environmentalists and reef fish collectors have had disputes in the past, but this one may have crossed over into criminal action with one party calling for serious charges to be filed.

The video was taken off the Kona Coast last Thursday. The dive turned ugly when one diver darts over and rips off Rene Umberger's breathing supply 50 feet underwater. The scene was captured on two cameras.

"This man needs to be arrested. I think this man needs to be arrested immediately for attempted murder," said Rene Umberger, coral reef consultant and scuba diver.

Umberger, 53, was eventually able to get her regulator back in and breathe again. That's when she captured the suspect make another threatening gesture with his arms toward her.

"I honestly thought he was coming back for a second attack," said Umberger. "I got up on the boat and I said oh my God, someone just tried to kill me underwater."

Umberger and the others were documenting damage to coral reefs when they came across the pair of divers who clearly didn't want their picture taken. She credits her experience and more than 10,000 dives with saving her life.

"An inexperienced diver would likely panic. Either panic from the stress of the situation and shoot for the surface. They may panic because their air source is missing and they can't find it. Any of those things causes a diver to shoot for the surface and those incidents often lead to death," said Umberger. "Never in a million years. Never in a million years did I think that someone would attack like that, especially from such a distance. It's not like we were close up or in their face."

She believes she knows who the suspect is and wants to press charges.

The State Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement says it is investigating and will turn its information over to the County Prosecutors office.

"The greater issue is that Hawaii's reefs are being emptied by these commercial operations," said Umberger. "Hawaii's reefs are suffering incredibly from this unlimited collection."

The video shows how aggressive people can be.

Collecting reef fish is legal if you have a permit and are in a designated area and meeting fish size, season and quantity rules. There's no word from the State if the suspect was diving legally.

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To watch the raw video of the 'attack' on a mobile device click on the 'Latest News Video' section on the Hawaii News Now app.

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