Samaritans rescue stranded diver from Gulf of Mexico

David Albers/Staff
- Naples resident Cindy Tutino hugs her son, Doug Tutino, after unloading from a diving trip where she became separated from her boat while diving the Santa Lucia wreck about 4 miles off of Gordon Pass in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.  Tutino drifted a couple miles away from the boat and was rescued by a Good Samaritan boater as several rescue agencies and private boats searched for her.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Naples resident Cindy Tutino hugs her son, Doug Tutino, after unloading from a diving trip where she became separated from her boat while diving the Santa Lucia wreck about 4 miles off of Gordon Pass in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. Tutino drifted a couple miles away from the boat and was rescued by a Good Samaritan boater as several rescue agencies and private boats searched for her.

A bathing suit top, a swim fin, some ingenuity and a couple Samaritans saved Cindy Tutino.

The 56-year-old found herself alone Friday afternoon in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, separated from her family during a diving excursion.

Tutino threw caution — and her bikini top — to the wind.

She tied it to a swim fin and waived it to attract boaters.

"Thank God for the yellow bathing suit," she said.

David Albers/Staff
- Naples resident Cindy Tutino speaks about her experience of becoming separated from her boat while diving the Santa Lucia wreck about 4 miles off of Gordon Pass in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.  Tutino drifted a couple miles away from the boat and was rescued by a Good Samaritan boater as several rescue agencies and private boats searched for her.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Naples resident Cindy Tutino speaks about her experience of becoming separated from her boat while diving the Santa Lucia wreck about 4 miles off of Gordon Pass in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. Tutino drifted a couple miles away from the boat and was rescued by a Good Samaritan boater as several rescue agencies and private boats searched for her.

The homemade distress flag caught the attention of David and Lyn Hunerberg. The couple, in their 58-foot Sea Ray boat named Livin' Easy, rescued Tutino.

"She's a very bright lady," David Hunerber said of Tutino's signaling idea, adding they saw sharks and a dolphin before locating her. "She was probably three-quarters of a mile from shore."

Tutino got separated from her boat, with husband Bill and son Doug aboard, during a dive of the wreck Santa Lucia, also known as "the Cuban." The popular fishing and diving spot is about four miles off the Gordon Pass.

Tutino said she had been cleaning up discarded casting nets that sometimes trap fish on the wreck. She surfaced and couldn't find the boat.

"I go up after 30 minutes if I am diving by myself," she said. "I was on a line so I am never away from the point I started, but there was no boat."

The boat, a 22-foot Horizon, had drifted, she said.

Tutino, who has been diving for 25 years, said she didn't panic.

"I thought about swimming toward them, but I knew they were drifting and I would never get to them. So I swam toward shore," she said.

"But my biggest fear was what my husband and son would think when they realized I was missing."

On the boat, Tutino's husband and son did get concerned when Cindy hadn't surfaced in about 45 minutes.

"I didn't know what happened, if she was at the bottom, stuck," Bill Tutino said.

Doug Tutino said he was confident his mother would be fine, but knew it was unlike her to not come up after about 30 minutes.

A worried Bill Tutino called authorities, which sent out a cavalry of rescue boats and divers. Rescue units with the Collier Sheriff's Office, the Naples Police Department, Naples Fire Department, North Naples Fire Department, The Coast Guard, Naples Harbor Master, Boat U.S. and Sea Tow responded to the call.

Harbor Master Roger Jacobsen said he received the call about 2:30 p.m. that a diver was missing on the wreck. He said he and Sea Tow made it to the scene first, but did not see the Tutino's vessel.

Jacobsen said he called for backup and headed south, eventually finding the Tutinos' boat. Divers began searching the wreck.

In the water, Cindy Tutino said she began to see boats heading toward the wreck.

"I was confident I would swim to shore or someone would find me," she said.

After hearing the rescue call and the radio chatter between Bill Tutino and authorities, the Hunerbergs decided to join the search.

Familiar with the currents and wind patterns around the dive site, the Hunerbergs headed away from the wreck and the other searchers.

Around 4 p.m., Lyn Hunerberg spotted Cindy Tutino through her binoculars.

"We like to float around and so we know what the tides do and what the current and the wind does," David Hunerberg said. "We decided to go look in the area we thought she could be."

Jacobsen gave her worried family the news.

"She was tired and exhausted, but she was OK," he said. "The relief on (Bill and Doug Tutino's) faces when they heard ... I'll remember that."

Cindy Tutino said she was thankful to the rescue agencies and the private individuals who searched for her."I am really humbled by that," she said.

After spending hours in the water, Cindy Tutino escaped with only a few cuts on her feet from her swim fins.

"It's not a big story, but it has a happy ending," she said.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 21

theabyss writes:

She didn't panic.. that is the key. Glad she is OK!

angrytxpyr writes:

I am glad she is OK but would advise her to never go diving from a boat with her husband and son on board again.

YUP STRAIGHT UP DO NOT DO IT!!!

Why wasn't the boat anchored?
Did they have a GPS unit on board?
What was her line "I was on a line so I am never away from the point I started, but there was no boat." attached to?
Did her life insurance payout just get larger?

I would wonder just why the husband and son on the boat didn't realize that the wreck they were sitting over didn't drift with them or why the divers air bubbles were no longer coming up fairly close to the boat!

You know this hole(I know its supposed to be whole)episode stinks to high heaven but whats really scarey is that the NPD WILL NOT INVESTIGATE THIS AT ALL and more than likely never ask another question about it or just how the heck this occurred "by accident"

I guess if it keeps the crime rate down and doesn't put to much pressure on Tommy Terrific Weschler to do his job then its all good.

I'm forever the pessimist but I smell something either very s----- or very bad here and it deserves a closer look.

MisterK writes:

I can clarify some of your questions angrytp. I believe the boat was anchored, but insufficiently anchored for the full moon tidal phase that was going on at the time. With wind and current together, a 22 foot vessel can be pushed a great distance dragging an improperly anchored vessel. The line she was using is attached to her starting point on the wreck. Gulf waters are murky, and disorientation is a part of nearly all Gulf dives. It's like a pilot having an instrument only rating. She employs an effective use of the line in this situation. By doing so, she ascends from the same spot she descended. It's somewhat disconcerting that there was a lack of awareness from her surface team. GPS or not, following her bubbles and spatial awareness as precaution were not utilized. It's great to see a strong emergency response. I'm sure the search and rescue divers went down for precautionary reasons, but the vessel wasn't even at that location. The report of her not surfacing then becomes suspect. Glad the story ended well. Props to the Hunerbergs for their willingness to aid and their wisdom of the sea.

newzhound (Inactive) writes:

very happy ending with appreciation to the Hunerbergs.

slickwillie writes:

diving alone is a recipe for disaster......

jkalvin writes:

A marker bouy on the wreck, or a properly anchored tag line would have let the surface team know that they were drifting. Always use a marker bouy - drift can happen to the best of us.

freedomsailor writes:

in response to angrytxpyr:

I am glad she is OK but would advise her to never go diving from a boat with her husband and son on board again.

YUP STRAIGHT UP DO NOT DO IT!!!

Why wasn't the boat anchored?
Did they have a GPS unit on board?
What was her line "I was on a line so I am never away from the point I started, but there was no boat." attached to?
Did her life insurance payout just get larger?

I would wonder just why the husband and son on the boat didn't realize that the wreck they were sitting over didn't drift with them or why the divers air bubbles were no longer coming up fairly close to the boat!

You know this hole(I know its supposed to be whole)episode stinks to high heaven but whats really scarey is that the NPD WILL NOT INVESTIGATE THIS AT ALL and more than likely never ask another question about it or just how the heck this occurred "by accident"

I guess if it keeps the crime rate down and doesn't put to much pressure on Tommy Terrific Weschler to do his job then its all good.

I'm forever the pessimist but I smell something either very s----- or very bad here and it deserves a closer look.

Yeah, NDN, INVESTIGATE! But you need not look further than angerythpyr. He did it.

nanbann writes:

This gives the Naples Fire Chief more ammo to justify his request for a new big and powerful offshore fire boat. If we can't put out fires with it at least the fire fighters can work on their tans while exercising it. Bigger is better and this chief is living it up as evidenced by the huge budget increases since he and Boss Moss took over.

FlaBlkPanther writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

FlaBlkPanther writes:

I am glad this has a happy ending. =)

Spock_is_logical writes:

Any certified diver knows about the diver buddy requirement. What a bunch of goobers.

No1Uno writes:

in response to freedomsailor:

Yeah, NDN, INVESTIGATE! But you need not look further than angerythpyr. He did it.

Something, the boater found the wreck the first time, but didn't know where to find it the second time. Talk about an uncomfortable silence at the family dinner later.

Or maybe not so quiet.

QueBonita writes:

"tired and exhausted"
Which is it?

wrightconnection writes:

in response to thepartyofknow:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MORON... what are you, 12 years old?

Aoxomoxoa writes:

in response to thepartyofknow:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ummm....yep.

roadhouse writes:

in response to Spock_is_logical:

Any certified diver knows about the diver buddy requirement. What a bunch of goobers.

I thought that diving with a buddy was THE basic requirement for safe diving. I'm glad the woman was ok, but this situation arose due to pure stupidity.

NaplesSparky writes:

in response to slickwillie:

diving alone is a recipe for disaster......

How exactly would TWO divers, lost when their boat drifted away, been an improvement in this situation?

NaplesShmaples writes:

Great job Naples crew for safely locating the missing diver. Now heres my 2 Cents.

1. Safety tube should be used on every dive(for those who dont know a safety tube is an inflatable, rollup tube that divers carry for this VERY REASON)

2. She was found 3/4 of a mile off shore...keep swimming. If this was 25 miles offshore itd be a different story

3. Please see #1

ReinettePoisson writes:

What idiot writes these headlines?

Who heard of a "samaritan?" Do they mean "Good Samaritan" maybe? Or a resident of Samaria? With the NDN, who knows?

First it was the reporters at the NDN that were first graders. Now it is the "editors."

lionfishhunter writes:

Something similar happened to my wife and I while diving in the Keys. We have since purchased an EPIRB.

NaplesSparky writes:

in response to ReinettePoisson:

What idiot writes these headlines?

Who heard of a "samaritan?" Do they mean "Good Samaritan" maybe? Or a resident of Samaria? With the NDN, who knows?

First it was the reporters at the NDN that were first graders. Now it is the "editors."

It's not the NDN's fault you don't know what a Samaritan is. Obviously its not referencing someone from Samaria in this context, so its a reference to the bible parable. In that case do you really need the word "good" to describe someone who is already going out of their way to help? In other words, can there be such a thing as a "bad Samaritan" that helps stranded divers?

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