View Full Version : "Flying Fish" incident witnesses needed
07-17-2007, 09:05 PM
For those of you that weren't at the Proteus wreck Saturday morning 7/14/2007, here is what happened:
At approximately 10am there were 4 freedive tournament boats flying dive flags and spaced apart on the corners of the wreck. 12 divers were in the water scattered over half a football field of space, all with marker buoys floating.
A boat was quickly approaching and it drew the attention of most of us present. The 65' vessel was on plane and not slowing down as it entered the dive site. I personally jumped onto our gunwhale with arms waving screaming "STOP, there's divers everywhere!!!" Head was on the hailer doing the same. Surfspearo pops up from a dive to see this white hull bearing down on him and starts signaling and yelling for him to give way. The mate on the bow replied with his middle finger.
This boat plowed over lines, buoys... and get this: 2 divers were under and ascending when they realized that the loud noise they were hearing was this boat right over their heads. Fortunately they adjusted trajectory and surfaced on either side. The boat bisected the dive site, spun 180 and dropped anchor right in the middle of our quad, waking everyone and separating chase boat captains from their divers. They were so close to our boat that I could see the sweat on his embarrassed clients faces.
Captain Johnny Pieno owns Outer Banks Diving (http://www.outerbanksdiving.com) and the dive charter crewboat "Flying Fish". His full-fingered mate on the bow was captain Larry. They carried a full load of scuba and free-divers (approx. 20) and promptly unloaded them on top of us.
I have been told that this operation acts like cowboys all the time, and believe that they 'own these wrecks' and are 'just trying to make a living'. Well they almost made some killings that day and violated several maritime ordinances that only get enforced when reported and witnessed. The disregard for the dive flag courtesy distance pales in comparison to almost cuisinarting innocent people having fun in the ocean. Not to mention his blatant and vulgar lack of professionalism.
I applaud the mature reactions of the other boats on site during this extremely dangerous situation. Everyone kept cool and accounted for their divers, then readjusted their dive plans. It's funny that the Tarpon, a stone's throw away was empty but this guy needed to crash our party... and he's done it year after year. As a former dive charter captain myself, I can't fathom an excuse for this type of behavior.
But it stops now, before someone doesn't come home next year. The intent of this thread is to collect witness reports of this incident, you can post replies or PM me or Mattedhead for anonymity. The important thing is that we speak out and set a precedent that this type of action is intolerable, save punishable by law.
Head and I are not trying to get this guy shut down, but he needs to know that there are reasons for the regulations and standards out there. Filing for official action from the authorities is the only way this will happen. We have attempted to contact Pieno for his side of the story out of fairness, and we hope he will come forth with an apology at a minimum. But in this rare instance... we are not holding our breath. Share your name and story with us so that we can keep both eyes on the fish next year and not fear the freight train bearing down us.
Thanks and I'm glad everyone made it through this year in one piece. I'm starting a list of people that I know were present, copy or quote it and add you and your dive buddies names to strengthen our case:
Witnesses of vessel "Flying Fish" and Capt. Johnny Pieno wrecklessly endangering personal safety at Proteus wreck July 15, 2007:
Hope you collect enough data to get this guy written up/fined at least. What a shitbag. Many parts of the world his boat would be on the bottom the next day.
07-17-2007, 09:26 PM
Edifying story!! It seems to me that this boat use to stay everyday on the tarpon wreck and that it is owning its own wreck...
07-17-2007, 09:46 PM
07-17-2007, 09:55 PM
hang em' high
07-17-2007, 10:28 PM
From co-owner Amy Pieno:
I am responding to your e-mail as well in to addition to printing this out and forwarding it out to "Capt Larry" as well. Johnny had just left a voice mail on your cell as he is willing to discuss this matter with you- in hopes of a resolution and also in hopes of not having to involve our local Coast Guard Safety Officer( which we do not have problem with) but with hopes that an amicable understanding of both parties actions are resolved.
You stated that you tried hailing Johnny. He tried hailing you on stations 01, 10, and also 16 but had not response. Channel 10 is the station that dive captains use here in NC and Channel 16 is the international hailing channel.
Capt Larry has responded to me via the e-mail you sent . He apologizes to everyone for his gesture as his response , but felt provoked by obscene gestures and language language being thrown to him.
If you feel you need to discuss this and or make an appointment with our MSO we can provide that info for you
Otherwise our contact #'s are:
Thanks for your attention to this matter
07-17-2007, 10:31 PM
Thank you for your prompt response to our concerns. Below you will find the text of an international spearfishing forum thread that I have just posted. I received your e-mail moments after I submitted it. Your geniality is appreciated, I know that damage control is a challenging undertaking. But what remains is that lives were endangered on that day and there was absolutely no regard for safety shown by your operation. Iíve been in the dive industry since 1994 as a captain and instructor, and besides one incident involving Bobby P. at the Normannia mowing down our bubbles, never have I seen such blatant disregard for standards of procedure. We monitored 68, 03 and 16 throughout the eventÖ but I canít imagine what kind of radio communication would have justified/prevented Johnny doing a Top Gun on us?!
One weekend a year weíre here, 50 of us, holding our breath and shooting fish for a tournament. We donít want there to be any sort of bad blood between what we are doing and your operation, but this isnít the first time people have feared your boat. Itís absolutely unacceptable to roll in like itís the O.K. Corral. I hope for you that your clients that day did not fathom the gravity of the situation because if they did, you will be feeling the repercussions for who knows how long.
I will consider restraining my outrage with this situation if Johnny and Larry fess up to acting like clowns and promise to have more decorum in the future when a dive site is full, dive flags are up and divers are in the water. I donít want to involve authorities and neither do you. But if thatís what it takes to get the message through, that the ocean is for everyone, and that this type of action is intolerable, then we will see it through.
-We'll keep you posted as this continues-
07-17-2007, 10:58 PM
I am a lawyer and reccomend that you gather statements from the individuals who were nearly killed and file a lawsuit against the owners of the boat and the operator. My firm would be willing to help you out with that pro bono as several of the partners are also divers.
At the very least you should make sure the local Coast Guard is made well aware of the middlefinger operator running on plane thru a group of freedivers. Capts licenses are for responsible individuals. Reckless types often have them revoked....
07-17-2007, 11:15 PM
As a USCG licensed captain and operator of a large vessel, I feel saddened and fearful of the damage I could cause with my boat. It is completely unacceptable to even drive through the group, nonetheless at speed. By no means should an apology be acceptable. I don't always like to focus on the "what-if's", but that shit goes on around here as well. Is it going to take somone getting killed for this action to be taken seriously?
07-17-2007, 11:31 PM
I wish you all the luck in the world, but the CG isn't gonna do sh*t about this. I had a worse incident on the rigs in La over a year ago. I had to contact a friend (I am retired CG) who knew a high ranking officer to even get them to take a statement & they won't even tell me what the result of the inquiry was. FOIA & some other crap. I had people send in statements also. If no one was hurt/killed they will just ignore it.
I sincerely hope you prove me wrong.
BTW, that boat used to run out out of Va Beach a few years ago & they were real nice folks. Too bad the new owners aren't as nice.
07-17-2007, 11:32 PM
Much appreciated Ed, but I hope it doesn't come to that. Nobody was hurt, court costs would be absurd and it's really about respect rather than reparation. They've had figurative warning shots fired at them before but the hopes are that this one might actually convince them that this isn't a game. I know firsthand what charter captains deal with on a daily basis and it's not an easy job... no Jimmy Buffet and Pina Coladas in NC... it's serious business. But jeez, this situation was so sketchy it has to be called out in a big way. I just hope that a solution can be found and that next year we can all work together and communicate to prevent this type of thing from happening again.
If I was running video we might have a case, but the ends aren't worth the means if someone was hurt. I think that a good resolution would be a public apology and a resolution to respect future events and their respective constituents for the future.
07-19-2007, 09:01 PM
glad no one was hurt,i say to the locker with the ass clown captain!
07-19-2007, 09:43 PM
glad no one was hurt,i say to the locker with the ass clown captain!
Please note that I have removed that vulgar idiom from my original statement.
I spoke at length with Capt. Pieno today. We disagree strongly on the events that transpired on that day. We disagree on the responsibilities, ethics and standards that a licensed Captain should abide by. We disagree on effective means of communication. We disagree on stereotyping the actions of different oceansport enthusiast groups.
BUT, we agree that safety is and should continue to be the primary concern of everyone on the water. We agree that a more effective means of communication and coordination between tourney and non-tourney boats should be employed next year. We agreed that this event involved high emotions and that both sides deserve and did receive apologies for certain specific actions. We agreed that the history of these type of interactions has led to certain dispositions on certain sides of the fence, but as a personal challenge we should all strive to overcome those obstacles and set new precedents of cooperation for the future.
This isn't an issue of scuba vs. breath-hold, or charter vs. private boat, or tourney vs. non-tourney... it's just awareness, patience and empathy. As upset as many of us have been, let's chalk this up to experience and be glad we're all here to learn from it.
If anyone feels strongly enough to present this to the Hatteras USCG Marine Safety Officer, Captain Pieno is more than willing see that end through; but he also invites anyone to call him personally for further discussion which I believe is an action more appropriate of us southern gents.
07-20-2007, 07:18 AM
i was not there ,but have heard from a few what happened ,sounded a little close for comfort ,so i'll just stick with "glad no one was hurt" and hope for everyone sake that anyone who read or heard about this will be a little more aware of others safety.
07-26-2007, 09:40 PM
I was on the water off NC 14 July. I was diving from a buds private boat. This past Monday, the same bud told me about the hoopla going on the web and emailed me the link. I don't have a dog in this fight but think there's a lot truth missing in this string. So I registered to add some balance.
Same day different wreck...Sometime after 0900 we came up on the Dixie Arrow and saw several boats over her. On the approach we tried to assess if they were divers or fishermen. Turns out there were 4 dive boats and only 2 dive flags. We powered down plenty away from the wreck and we started laughing at this fool getting all animated on the nearest boat. It was obvious he was staking his claim. We never exchanged words, good ones or bad ones. I wanted to pick a gap on Dixie and set anchor, but we circled and picked up another wreck 6 miles away. Coincidentally, on our trip to the Abrams, we hailed the Flying Fish as she went by to see where she was headed (Proteus).
This was my first encounter with freedivers on a wreck that I was trying to dive. I've always been intregued by the sport of freediving, but now...not so much. The 4 boats and freedivers on the Dixie were spread over the wreck to hog it and ready to pick a fight with anyone getting near. Do I think it was any different on the Proteus? Nah. I'm sure this is a tactic that is deliberate, orchestrated and shared amongst its members.
There were lots of eyes out there on the 14th. If anyone were really serious about a lawsuit, there'd be no problem finding good people with no partisanships willing to testify to the truth. But the truth is that no one's innocent...it's what happens when Jerk A meets Jerk B on the open ocean.
...... The 4 boats and freedivers on the Dixie were spread over the wreck to hog it .
Yeah, yeah I'm sure that 4 boatloads of freedivers were spread all over the wreck with the sole intention of HOGING it. Those PIGS!
07-26-2007, 10:03 PM
You are a fool.
Not ONE of the boats on the Proteus were on the hook that day. We had a captain in the boat the whole time. Tighten up. You cannot ever win the hate game. The guys on the dixie arrow that day did not start diving last week. None of these people try to "hog" a wreck.
FYI if you see 5 dive boats on one wreck, go somewhere else!
Get your facts straight.
May the fools never win.
07-26-2007, 11:17 PM
Rrrrright (ya gotta say it like Dr Evil),
4 boats not 5.
We did go somewhere else.
Not angery or hateful.
Not taking sides (I know the FF's rep for tooling w/ other boats).
The facts are straight.
Tighten up a little less.
It's a big ocean but we're sharing the little piece around a wreck.
07-27-2007, 07:06 AM
Randy...sounds fishy, but we were not on the Dixie...We were being run over on the Proteus. But seeing as though we were freediving off a boat in the Atlantic just as the guys on the Dixie, it MUST have gone down the exact same way as you are proclaiming on an entirely different wreck....RRRRiiiiiggghhhttt.
07-27-2007, 10:17 AM
Randy, It so Happens I was on the Dixie Arrow when, based on what you are saying, your boat came in. I was on the Fish Hog and one of our guys began waving his arms as a boat came into the area fast. There were quite a few divers on the Dixie arrow at that time and their floats were in evidence. I'm not sure what the Diver flag regs are there, but here you have to stay 200' away and we often use one or two flags for several divers.
Anyway - The tone with which you characterize this incident is not consistent with my experience. The guy who was waving at the boat to slow down was not angry, just letting the boat know they should slow down before they got too close. After the boat slowed down we all got back to gearing up and there was no further mention or any animosity expressed.
The boat (yours?) slowed down a good 30 yards before getting into the dive area and the impression I had was that our guys were just letting them know what there were divers down - in case they didn't notice.
Frankly, I thought it was just another of our group pulling in.
The incident doesn't remotely resemble the Proteus incident as described. You are attributing it an edge that wasn't there on our end. Nobody even swore or was angry. It was never mentioned again and I completely forgot about it until seeing this.
I'd venture to say the attitudes you express are something you are bringing to the table.
I was not competing in the tournament - I was there to do an article for Deeperblue and take a few pictures. It was the first spearfishing tournament I've been to and I didn't know anyone there - in other words I'm as qualified to claim objective observer status as anybody, probably more than most.
The boat drivers do not coordinate in order to stake out or hog a site. Their sole Raison de tre' is to be available for the divers when signaled - in the meen time they hover, out of the way - avoiding divers, eachother and any other boats that are sharing the site at the time.
07-27-2007, 05:41 PM
I was diving on the Proteus during this particular incident from the Fin Quest. Luckily I was diving on the perimeter of the wreck looking for something other than amberjack and pompano. I did notice that the Flying Fish plowed right through the middle of the wreck as if there was no one there. From what our captain and mate told us, they then had some issues dropping their anchor and the crew was running around like a "Chinese fire drill." Finally they had someone jump in to fix the issue. I was surprised that they didn't approach the wreck by circling and assessing the situation.
07-27-2007, 06:13 PM
We all want our own space, ideally no one else on a wreck... to think we coordinate with other boats like "hey, let's ALL go to the Proteus" is absurd. This thread is about safety, not territoriality. Let's all communicate, go slow, be safe, have fun...
...and not be rear-end funny-people-with-big-shoes-and-make-up-and-afros-and-red-round-noses.
08-31-2007, 12:49 PM
But the truth is that no one's innocent...it's what happens when Jerk A meets Jerk B on the open ocean.
The thread was pulled by that other board- but I'm not surprised- there's no comparison between this boards sometime-questionable policies- and that ones always-unpredictable ones.
I've been on a boat with Johnny Pieno- and he was a great guy. But, he was only a passenger, so I don't know his demeanor while in charge. When speaking with him, he is very aware of the effects of bad publicity, so maybe as the OP said, any misunderstandings won't happen again.
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