|Birth: ||Mar. 6, 1958|
|Death: ||Jul. 21, 2010|
Palm Beach County
Wesley Cofer Skiles, age 52, of High Springs, FL passed away in Boynton Beach, FL on Wednesday July 21, 2010. Mr. Skiles was born on March 6th 1958 in Jacksonville, Florida to James E. Skiles II and Marjorie Glenna Cofer Skiles. Wes graduated from Englewood High School in Jacksonville with a passion for science. As Wes would say, he then enrolled in the School of Life and pursued a degree in 'Curiology.'
Wes was bigger than life and his passions were infectious. He touched so many in his hope to educate about the springs and underground aquifers. When he began exploring caves as a teenager, he pursued the adventure of going where no one had ever been. He began to see the deterioration of Florida's underground world and made it his mission to show the world what was happening through powerful images. This led to the formation of Karst Environmental Services with his partner of twenty-seven years Pete Butt. His extraordinary gift for photography and filmmaking grew into Karst Productions. Through both companies he used his passion to protect Florida's waters.
Wes is survived by his wife Terri Skiles, son Nathan Skiles, daughter Tessa Skiles, a brother James Edward Skiles, III, his wife Sharon and their children Jimmy and Jessica, and a sister Shirley Spohrer, her husband George and their daughter Alexandra, Jacklyn Paulson, Cathy and Dean Andersen, Michael and Layla Paulson, friends and business partners Pete Butt and Georgia Shemitz, and all those whose lives he touched.
A Memorial Service and Celebration of Wes's life will be held at Ginnie Springs 5000 NE 60th Ave. High Springs, FL 32643 on Wednesday, July 28th. The Memorial Service will begin at 6:00 pm followed by a Celebration of Wes's life. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made in Wes's name to: The Alachua Conservation Trust - alachuaconservationtrust.org
Milam Funeral and Cremation Services 311 S. Main Street Gainesville, FL 32601 (352) 376-5361.
Published in Ocala Star-Banner from July 25 to July 26, 2010
Renowned underwater photographer Wes Skiles died Wednesday while diving off Florida's east coast, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday afternoon.
Skiles, 52, of High Springs, was pronounced dead after he was found motionless at the bottom of a reef Wednesday afternoon.
Skiles had been diving with others and filming underwater about three miles east of the Boynton Beach Inlet, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera.
Skiles apparently alerted the other divers that he was ascending because he was out of film, Barbera said. The others continued in the water but later decided to ascend.
"On their way to the surface, they found him at the bottom of the reef motionless," Barbera said.
The man was rushed to the surface, and CPR was administered.
Barbera said the man was taken to an area hospital and was pronounced dead.
The incident occurred at about 3 p.m.
Residents of the High Springs area expressed sadness Thursday to learn of the death of a man who had done so much to promote cave diving at area springs.
"He really had a large part in putting this area on the map." said Mark Wray, manager of the Ginnie Springs Resort.
Skiles was instrumental in helping to map the caves and develop safety rules for diving at the springs, Wray said. Pictures of Skiles on the walls of the resort shop and brochures were a testament to his involvement with the springs.
"He had a vision and a way of seeing things," Wray said. "What he did was bring his vision to the rest of us."
Jarrod Jablonski, owner of the Extreme Exposure dive shop in High Springs, said Skiles' films such as "Water's Journey" have helped increase awareness of the springs as well as conservation efforts.
"A lot of this stuff is really out of sight, out of mind for people," Jablonski said. "He gave voice to something that is easy to ignore for a lot of people."
A woman at the Karst Productions, the underwater film and videography company owned by Skiles and headquartered in High Springs, answered the phone early Thursday but said they were not taking media calls at this time.
The Sheriff's Office reported Skiles had been filming for National Geographic. But the organization reported shooting had finished. "He had been shooting on a National Geographic television production, which had concluded," said Ellen Stanley, vice president of communications for the National Geographic Society.
A statement from the organization, released Thursday afternoon, said, "National Geographic has learned of the tragic death of Wes Skiles, the accomplished underwater photographer, cinematographer and explorer with whom we've worked frequently. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident, which occurred following the conclusion of a scientific research expedition related to marine life off the east coast of Florida. Our thoughts are with Wes' family."
Barbera said the death investigation into the incident was ongoing Thursday.
WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - Well-known National Geographic filmmaker Wesley Skiles drowned while shooting underwater because his Dive Rite scuba gear malfunctioned, his widow claims in Palm Beach County Court.
Terri Skiles claims that Dive Rite knew its oxygen monitoring system had a propensity to malfunction because it had been recalled multiple times, but Dive Rite ignored "serious quality control issues" and tampered with the scuba equipment evidence after the fatality.
Terri Skiles sued Lamartek Inc. dba Dive Rite; Dive Gear Express LLC fka Dive Rite Express; Fill Express LLC aka Dive Rite Express; Mark E. Derrick; Juergensen Marine Inc. and Analytical Industries Inc.
She alleges negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, conspiracy to spoliate evidence, and civil conspiracy.
Terri Skiles claims that in July 2010 her husband borrowed a used Dive Rite O2ptima FX Rebreather from a third party.
A rebreather works like an air tank, but instead of releasing the exhalations, it filters out the carbon dioxide for the user to rebreathe.
The third party brought the rebreather to Dive Rite for a maintenance check, and after Dive Rite replaced a few parts, it said the rebreather was good to go, Skiles says in the complaint.
She says her husband used the rebreather while working in Boyton Beach to try to get footage of Goliath Groupers for National Geographic's film "Speed Kills."
However, the widow says: "Due to an unexpected catastrophic failure of the subject 02ptima FX rebreather during the dive, Wesley Skiles passed out underwater and died. This tragedy would not have occurred but for the tortious conduct of defendants Dive Rite, Dive Rite Express, Mark Express, Jurgensen Marine Inc. and Analytical Industries Inc. The subject rebreather was being used as intended at the time of the incident and in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the defendants.
"Thereafter, Mark Derrick and Dive Rite Express acting in a joint venture with and/or as an agent of defendant Dive Rite interfered with the investigation into the death of Wesley Skiles when, at the request of Hires [the owner of Dive Rite], Mark Derrick conducted the inspection of the subject 02ptima FX rebreather, which resulted in the spoliation of evidence in this case."
Skiles says her husband's death could have been prevented: "In the years preceding the incident, Dive Rite was aware of serious quality control issues with the 02ptima FX rebreather. In fact, Hires was warned several times that because of the hasty manner in which the 02ptima FX rebreather was being assembled, the electronics and oxygen sensors on the 02ptima FX rebreather were being damaged by unknown sources of moisture leading to catastrophic failures, and that such failures would occur in such a way as to give the diver absolutely no warning of the failure.
"Additionally, all defendants knew of problems associated with the oxygen sensors being used in the 02ptima FX rebreather. Batches of oxygen sensors purchased from defendant Analytical Industries Inc. had been recalled in 2007, and subsequent batches continued to contain defective sensors.
"Moreover, the U. S. Consumer Product, Safety Commission issued a recall on December 22, 2009 for Dive Rite Wings because of defective over-pressure valve springs, which could rust and fail allowing the buoyancy compensator devices to leak, posing a drowning hazard to divers.
"Dive Rite and the other defendants disregarded these serious life-threatening defects in the 02ptima FX rebreather," according to the complaint.
Wesley Skiles was experienced at his work, his widow says: "Over his career, Wesley Skiles became one of the most well-known and well respected underwater cinematographers in the world. He founded his own cinematography company, Karst Productions, and shot underwater films for National Geographic, PBS, A&E, and Discovery Channel, directed the IMAX film 'Journey Into Amazing Caves,' and produced the acclaimed television series 'Water's Journey.' He won dozens of international awards far his effects, including Beneath the Sea's Diver of the Year and HDFEST's award far Best Cinematography. ...
"After his death, National Geographic named Wesley Skiles Explorer of the Year and Florida's Peacock Springs State Park was renamed in honor of Wesley Skiles and is now called Wesley Skiles Peacock Springs State Park."
Terry Skiles seeks damages for wrongful death, deceptive trade, conspiracy to spoliate evidence, negligent spoliation of evidence, breach of warranty, costs and funeral expenses.
Marjorie Glenna Cofer Skiles (1922 - 2005)
Created by: Dave V
Record added: Jul 22, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 55312338
JoLynn Mangum Cooper Self
Added: Oct. 22, 2012
We knew Wes as casual acquaintances, and fellow SCUBA divers. He was one of the nicest people one could hope to meet. And his photography was always First Rate. He will be greatly missed. Sending prayers for his family and friends. God bless.|
Wiregrass Irisheyes (inactive)
Added: Feb. 12, 2011
You gave us the beauty of the creation below the serface. God be with you.|
Robert C. Peurifoy
Added: Nov. 28, 2010