The body of U.S. diver Steve Brittain is found and rushed to shore, but he was declare dead shortly afterwards.  (Anthony Bayarong / Demotix)

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — An American diving instructor, who had also worked with the U.S. Navy, has been found dead after exploring the USS New York in the Pacific Ocean.

Steve Brittain, a dive master who worked at Johan Dive Shop in Subic Bay in the Philippines, died — along with a Hong Kong tourist — when surveying the World War II wreck.

Police recovered the body of the American Tuesday after the two divers went missing Monday evening, and the tourist’s body was found, inside USS New York, Tuesday night, according to police officer Jose Llaves.

Brittain, who was believed to have settled in the Philippines and started a family there, took tourists Tin Shun-chuen and Chow Fung-lung diving at the popular wreck Sunday, but only Chow emerged from the expedition.

He told police he lost track of Brittain and Tin because of poor visibility as they swam through the wreck, forcing him to surface.

Nino Palmiano, a staff member for the Boardwalk Dive Shop in Subic whose dive masters took part in the search and rescue effort, said that Brittain was a popular and experienced diving instructor in the area.

“I know that he was previously with the U.S. Navy,” Palmiano said.

According to the Johan’s Beach and Dive Resort website, the dive centre, established by Johan De Sadeleir, reads: “Johan offers Novice, Recreational, Wreck, Nitrox, Deep and Trimix diving.

“[We also offer] instruction with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), ANDI (American Nitrox Divers International), CMAS diver(Wold underwater Federation).

“We are [also] PCSSD (Philippine Commission of Sport Scuba Divers) accredited [and a] member Subic Bay dive association.”

The website continues: “We dive 30 wrecks and coral sites with our four fast speed boats leaving in front of the resort at least twice a day.

“Wreck sites include World War II wrecks, battle ships, cargo ships, patrol boats, landing ships, antique steam ships, submarines and airplanes.

“Three full-time instructors with combined over 45 years of dive instruction worldwide teach in English, French, German, Dutch (Netherlands) and Tagalog.”

Romeo Renojo, maritime security chief at the Subic Bay Freeport, said an investigation is under way.

He said he has recommended a suspension of dives at the USS New York, one of about eight U.S. and Japanese World War II shipwrecks in Subic Bay.

The USS New York was scuttled in 27 meters (90 feet) of water by U.S. forces based at the then U.S. naval base ahead of the Japanese World War II invasion, according to local dive shops.

The wreck is home to colourful sea creatures such as barracuda, lionfish, groupers, lobsters, octopus and rays, according to local divers.


The relatives of Steve Brittain weep after his body was pulled out of the water.  (Anthony Bayarong / Demotix)

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