British citizens sentenced for the death of a diver | USAO-SDFL
Miami, Florida – After more than 10 years on the run from authorities, Christopher Jones and Alison Gracey were convicted in Miami federal court today for their roles in the 2011 manslaughter of a diver.
The Honorable James Lawrence King, Senior Judge of the United States District Court, sentenced Jones to 51 months in prison and three years of probation. Alison Gracey was sentenced to the time she has already served in custody – 18.5 months and a year’s probation. Both will be deported from the United States at the end of their prison terms.
Jones, 58, and Gracey, 55, owned the Key Largo Scuba Shack, LLC, a company that operated scuba diving trips in the Florida Keys from approximately June 2010 through December 2011. They operated a 24-hour vessel. .8 feet named the M/V getting wet within the framework of the company. On December 18, 2011, the M/V Getting wet made a dive trip with two crew members and six passengers. During their first dive stop, the sea conditions changed from calm to rough and the boat operator noticed that the bilge pump had failed. When the divers re-boarded the boat after the dive, the vessel began to take on water and roll heavily. The Getting wet eventually capsized and quickly sank about 30 feet from the ocean floor. During its descent, a 300-pound bench seat that was not properly attached to the deck of the ship came loose. Made of a buoyant material, the shoal shot up to the surface of the ocean when the ship itself sank. The two large, heavy objects collided, pinning one of the passenger’s legs against the ship’s windshield. The passenger was trapped and drowned.
Coast Guard experts then inspected the Getting wet and found serious shortcomings. None of Get wet the hold compartments, including the engine spaces below the ship’s deck, were watertight. The aftmost bilge space was covered by a deck plate with holes for 30 bolts, 22 of which were missing and the remaining eight were loose. The wood at the bottom of the 300-pound bench was rotten and the screws to attach it to the deck were too small. Below deck, holes that allowed water to flow between the various hold compartments compromised all bulkheads. A bilge pump had been disassembled and reassembled incorrectly, causing it to fail.
The Coast Guard’s criminal investigation into the diver’s death found that Jones and Gracey knew before the tragedy that the ship needed repairs. Jones and Gracey continued to operate the M/V getting wet despite the following events, all of which occurred before December 18, 2011:
- Following inspections, the United States Coast Guard advised Jones and Gracey that the vessel needed repairs, including securing the engine bed center cover to the deck and making repairs below deck to ensure sealing of partitions.
- Employees of the dive operation repeatedly informed Jones that the Getting wet dangerously flooded. The deck plates were barely attached and the engine bed cover wobbled back and forth.
- The Getting wet breaks down several times and the boat’s equipment fails, including the pumps intended to dewater the ship.
- During a trip with Gracey on board as dive master, the Getting wet almost sank.
- In the two months before the sinking, a marine rescuer towed the Getting wet down three times.
Shortly after the diver’s death, Jones and Gracey fled the United States and spent more than 10 years moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, fighting extradition every time law enforcement found them. They were eventually arrested in 2021 in Spain, where Spanish authorities took them into custody based on an Interpol red notice. In January 2022, Jones and Gracey were extradited to the United States to face federal charges in the Southern District of Florida.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Zinnia James, Special Agent in Charge of the Southeast Region of the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), announced the results today. of the sentencing hearing.
The US Coast Guard Investigative Service investigated the matter. The United States Department of Justice, Bureau of International Affairs, provided invaluable assistance, pursuing the extradition of the defendants from several countries. The US Marshal’s Service also assisted by transporting the defendants from Spain to Florida.
Former Assistant US Attorney Jaime Raich worked on the investigation and initially prosecuted the case, which Assistant US Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald is now handling.
Court documents and related information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts. gov, under file number 12-cr-10013.