How the Search for an Elusive Fish Led to Filmmaker's Death

Rob Stewart disappeared while diving off the Florida Keys
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2017 4:44 PM CST
Inside the Florida Death of a Canadian Filmmaker
Rob Stewart's body was found three days after the award-winning documentary filmmaker went missing while diving off the Florida Keys.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

On Jan. 31, Rob Stewart surfaced from his third dive of the day off the Florida Keys and gave the OK sign. Three days later, the award-winning documentary filmmaker's body was found on the ocean floor. Outside dives into what went wrong and the one question that persists following Stewart's death. Stewart was on a mission to film the sawfish—a creature with the body of a shark and a beak that looks like a chainsaw—for a followup to his 2007 film Sharkwater. Sawfish are easily scared off by the bubbles and noise of traditional scuba gear, so Stewart was going to be using a rebreather. Stewart was a highly experienced diver but had no experience with rebreathers, which present unique dangers to the user.

Stewart was certified to use a rebreather just four days before what became the final dives of his life. Those dives, to explore a 111-year-old sunken steamship, were the deepest Stewart had ever attempted—230 feet—and he made three of them. Most people experienced with rebreathers would have stopped at two dives—at most. It's unclear why Stewart didn't. After surfacing following their final dive, Stewart's diving partner blacked out while getting into the boat. While dealing with him, the crew lost sight of Stewart. An official search was launched within five minutes. Seventy-two hours later, Stewart's body was found 300 feet from where it was last seen. Read the full story here for more on the search and what Stewart meant to the fight to save sharks. (Read more missing person stories.)

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