Aqueduct Drowning Victim Family Reaction

May 10, 2008 2:55:50 PM PDT
Chilling audio tapes reveal two divers who drowned in the California aqueduct last year were victims of their co-workers' inexperience and complacency.You heard the tapes on action news live at eleven last night.

Audio tapes and surveillance video obtained by action news show exactly what went wrong the day Coalinga native Martin Alvarado and his co-worker Tim Crawford jumped in to check the trash racks at a Los Banos pumping station. Alvarado's family members say the new revelations are heartbreaking.

Pump five at the Dos Amigos Pumping Station was never shut off the morning Martin Alvarado and his dive partner Tim Crawford dove in February of 2007.

Records show the divers enter the water at 10:10 that morning. At 10:23 the dive tender watches their air bubbles sweep into pump 5 and disappear.

Janie Sandoval, Martin Alvarado's Sister: "I know he was thinking, shut the pump off, shut the pump off, somebody up there shut the pump off and nobody was turning off the pump."

Family members watched our first story disgusted at the lack of action and experience from workers from the department of water resources.

Dive tender: "I seen them come go by the unit that's on and I don't see the bubbles coming up anymore."

Control room: "You got a rope tied on them or anything?"

Dive tender: "No; they don't have rope on them."

Lupe Maldonado, Martin Alvarado's Sister: "They didn't show any emotion or sorrow or anything. There's just, they don't know. It's ok, whatever happens will happen. It's like it wasn't somebody's life."

A surveillance video captures the tender pacing the deck above the divers for more than 20 minutes before he finally calls the control room.

The diver's air supply is running out and they're being held against the trash racks of unit five by the pumps powerful suction.

The divers are connected to each other by a three foot orange tether and they have no way to communicate with the surface.

Dive tender: "They went by unit 5 and I lost their air bubbles for quite a while now."

Control room: "Oh, what do you want to do?"

Dive tender: "How long do these guys usually stay down?"

Control room: "I don't know, I've never tended to them."

Dive tender: "Neither have I. How long are those tanks good for, do you know?"

Control room: "Uh-uh"

Alicia Alvarado, Martin Alvarado's Sister: "For such a risky, risky job, being underwater 30 feet and having someone who knows nothing that upsets me, you know it's like their life doesn't matter."

Records show the dive tender who was supposed to keep track of the divers has no training and no diving experience. He also is not clear on how to respond to an emergency.

Close to two hours after Alvarado and Crawford went in, they are pulled out. Family members say Alvarado held on as long as he could.

"His hands were cut when he was in the coffin his hands were cut. And him and Tim were tethered (butt to) so I know he was hanging on for dear life to hold on to Tim so that he wouldn't separate and with his other hand he was hanging on to the grate."

Of 11 children, Alvarado is the only one now resting in a quiet corner at the Lemoore cemetery. His family says accepting his death would be easier if there weren't so many disparities surrounding the way he lost his life.

The department of water resources was fined 15 thousand dollars for their mistakes. Martin Alvarado's wife has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit.


Load Comments