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Three Snorkelers Die On One Day In The Keys

Credit npr.org

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is investigating the deaths of three people who all died Monday in separate incidents while snorkeling in the Keys.

Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay said Tuesday that having three fatalities on the water in one day was unprecedented.

Richard Gueringer, 71, of San Antonio, Texas, was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center after he lost consciousness in the water off Key West. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to Deputy Becky Herrin, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

Larry Coltrin, 72, of Schaumburg, Illinois, was snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas when he lost consciousness and died, Herrin said. The Tortugas are a group of islands designated as a national park, 70 miles west of Key West.

Julia Thien, 64, of Wood River, Illinois, was snorkeling off the Upper Keys when she had trouble in the water and became unresponsive, Herrin said. She was brought onto the boat and taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier where she was pronounced dead.

So far in 2015, six people have died while diving or snorkeling in the Keys.

Ramsay said it's a matter of raw numbers, with record numbers of tourists visiting the Keys and going out for snorkel and dive trips. Many may be inexperienced, out of shape or out of practice.

"Know your limitations. Don't go past that," Ramsay said. "If you're going to do an open water dive, take a refresher class. Get comfortable with the gear, know your dive tables."

And Ramsay recommends keeping an eye on the weather, which is often windy during the winter, which leads to rough seas and poor visibility.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.