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Iris Tragedy Rememberd

Iris Tragedy Rememberd

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Published by Patrick E. Jones

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Published by: Patrick E. Jones on Oct 09, 2011
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10/09/2011

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Joy, sorrow as Richmond Dive Club marks10th anniversary of tragedy
By: Michael MartzPublished: October 09, 2011Herb and Mildred Webb ran theirfingertips over the name of their son,Buddy Webb, on a metal plaquecommemorating 17 Richmond-area scubadivers who had died 10 years earlierwhen their boat capsized in a hurricane inBelize. Then Joshua Pike approached the plaque, which the Richmond Dive Club was aboutto place on a platform 20 feet below the surface of Lake Rawlings on Saturday tohonor the club members who died on the Wave Dancer on Oct. 8, 2001.Pike touched the names of his parents, Charlie and Cindy, and then that of hiscousin, Jimmy Topping. He sat sobbing, consoled by diving club members who havebeen family to the families of those who died when he was just 15 years old."I'm glad I conquered this," said Pike, a Midlothian native who now lives in westernHenrico County. "Their passing away at such an early age was extremely hard, butit made me grow up fast."It touched him, he said, that "everyday people are never forgotten." The ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the worst accident in the history of recreational scuba diving, but some 50 people gathered to remember friends andfamily with joy as well as sorrow.Herb Webb of Midlothian said of his son, "One thing consoled us — he was with thepeople he loved and doing absolutely what he loved. If it had to happen, whatbetter way?" The three members of the diving club who survived the capsizing —DavidDeBarger, Mary Lou Hayden and Richard Patterson — were among those whoattended the ceremony."This is not a memorial service," saidDeBarger, who became president of the clubafter the accident. "We're celebrating their lives." The celebration culminated in a group of divers taking the plaque into the waters of the former quarry and attaching it to a 12-foot-square aluminum platform that theclub had installed in 2004 with another plaque commemorating the accident. The new plaque includes the names of all 17 members who died after 140 mphwinds during Hurricane Iris ripped the boat from its moorings and capsized it in 12feet of water in Belize.Some memories were hard to bear, much less share.David Mowrerwas aboardanother boat on the weeklong diving expedition. He spent that night and the nextmorning diving into the wreckage of the Wave Dancer to retrieve the bodies of seven club members and three crew members."At first, we were hoping to do rescue,"Mowrersaid in a choked voice. "Then itturned into recovery."But the tone of the celebration was as uplifting as the sparkling autumn afternoon.

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