A frightening underwater attack was caught on tape last week — by the woman who was attacked and almost killed by another diver who swam toward her and ripped out her breathing tube, 50 feet below the surface of the water off the coast of Hawaii. Rene Umberger, 53, says it was only her experience of more than 10,000 dives that saved her life.
She believes she knows the identity of the man who assaulted her, and she wants him brought to justice, after both she and a diving companion filmed the potentially deadly underwater assault.
“This man needs to be arrested. I think this man needs to be arrested immediately for attempted murder,” said Umberger, a coral reef consultant who was documenting damage to Hawaii’s coral reefs underwater when she came across what she says was pair of divers capturing fish from the reef for the aquarium trade.
The aquarium fishermen were not happy about being caught on tape.
“I honestly thought he was coming back for a second attack,” said Umberger said. “I got up on the boat and I said, ‘Oh my God, someone just tried to kill me underwater.’”
Thanks to her experience, Umberger did not panic, despite being cut off from her air supply — and deep enough that swimming rapidly to the surface could risk causing air bubbles to form in the blood, another potentially lethal condition.
She managed to get her breathing apparatus back in place and safely return to the surface.
Hawaii’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement is now investigating the incident. Umberger believes that her assailant is an aquarium fisherman named Jay Lovell, who has also filed a complaint against Umberger for harassment.
But Umberger says she and her companions were filming the other divers from a distance, not harassing them.
“An inexperienced diver would likely panic. Either panic from the stress of the situation and shoot for the surface. They may panic because their air source is missing and they can’t find it. Any of those things causes a diver to shoot for the surface and those incidents often lead to death,” Umberger told a local TV station. “Never in a million years did I think that someone would attack like that, especially from such a distance. It’s not like we were close up or in their face.”
Collecting fish from coral reefs is legal in Hawaii, though it requires a permit and may be carried out only in designated zones. But there has been no evidence that the diver who staged the underwater attack on Umberger was fishing illegally.
Check out the video of the chilling underwater attack.