A woman who died after scuba diving off St. Pete Beach had complained of a gear malfunction before her death, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Kimberly Houtz, 54, had been scuba diving and spearfishing with her boyfriend, the captain of the boat and two other passengers in the Gulf of Mexico about 13 miles off the coast.
At about 10:15 a.m., authorities say Houtz and her boyfriend stopped to dive a popular wreck that was in about 37 feet of water. Witnesses told investigators Houtz had complained about a diving equipment malfunction but continued with the dive.
Houtz was underwater for less than five minutes before she rose to the surface in distress.
She was pulled back onto the boat and reported feeling nauseous and experiencing abdominal pain. She also had trouble breathing.
As they headed back to shore, Houtz began losing consciousness. The occupants on the boat radioed for assistance and began performing CPR.
Accoding to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office, a rescue boat from Eckerd College Search and Rescue met the boat about a mile offshore. A paramedic, not from Eckerd, boarded the fishing boat and utilized an automated external defibrillator (AED) and oxygen to treat Houtz while they continued to Tierra Verde Marina.
Once they reached land, Houtz was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg Hospital to be treated for life-threatening injuries. She died Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
Detectives say her death appears to be accidental in nature.
Her official cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner’s Office.