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Scuba victim ID’d as navy coxswain

May 22 2012

The man who died in a scuba-diving accident in Saanich Inlet on the weekend was a HMCS Victoria coxswain on a recreational dive with friends when something went terribly wrong.

Richard Boileau, 47, a chief petty officer first class with the Royal Canadian Navy, died Saturday afternoon following a diving incident about 1.5 kilometres south of Bamberton.

The married man, a father of two grown children, was described Monday as an accomplished diver.

At the time of the incident, Boileau was with two friends, one of whom is in the military. There was no work-related task involved, CFB Esquimalt spokeswoman Capt. Annie Djiotsa said.

About 3:30 p.m. Shawnigan Lake RCMP received a call about an unconscious man unable to breathe.

People in a nearby sailboat spotted trouble on the water. They ferried the three men to Brentwood Bay Marina at the east side of the peninsula. From there, Boileau was taken to nearby Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

A Quebec native, Boileau joined the navy in 1984. The next year he met his wife, Brenda Lyall, in Manitoba. Married 26 years, the couple have a son and daughter, who live in Greater Victoria.

Boileau served in Kosovo and the Golan Heights.

Lyall said she accepted the inherent risk of her husband’s career and even his recreational activities.

She worried a bit when her husband used to skydive, but because he was “an accomplished diver” for decades, she wasn’t concerned when he set out on a deep dive “for fun” Saturday, she said.

“It’s a real shock,” Lyall said. “We’re coping.”

“He loved diving,” Lyall said. She described her husband as an outdoorsman who also loved hunting and trapping. And he was also a disciplined, “down-to-business” kind of guy, she said.

But what drew her too him was that he could make her laugh.

“He had a great sense of humour, a great sense of duty,” Lyall said.

Boileau was posted across Canada throughout his career, including a few postings in Victoria. He returned to Victoria in 2010 and has been with HMCS Victoria since 2011.

The navy was his “second family,” Lyall said.

CFB Esquimalt said “it’s a terrible loss” when any member of such a tight-knit family is lost, but that the loss of someone in Boileau’s position is that much greater for his unit.

“He was a very strong leader and dedicated service man,” Djiotsa said. “He will be very missed.”

A coxswain ostensibly becomes the ears and eyes of the commander in a unit, Djiotsa said. “It’s a very important role in the command chain.”

The cause of the accident has not been determined. Shawnigan Lake RCMP did not return calls Sunday or Monday. CFB Esquimalt would not say whether Boileau was using navy equipment.

Coroner Barb McLintock said the diving equipment used by Boileau was described to her as very “sophisticated.”

A handful of diving deaths occur in B.C. each year, the majority off Vancouver Island, the coroner said.

McLintock said her office will conduct an autopsy. The Canadian Coast Guard will test the victim’s equipment.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com