A diver with 50 years’ experience died after suffering a heart attack while investigating a wreck off the Yorkshire Coast, an inquest heard.
Friends of Chris Baker from the Scarborough Sub-Aqua Club have paid tribute to someone whose death left “a huge void” in the diving community.
Matt Newsome, the club’s chairman, told The Scarborough News: “The loss of Chris greatly saddened us all.
“After diving locally for over 40 years, he was one of the most experienced divers in the local area.
“His knowledge of diving, maritime history and his incredible experience left a huge void in our diving community.
“Chris had trained and inspired dozens of divers over the decades and his zest for life was infectious.
“Diving was his life’s passion and though his loss is still raw, we can take some comfort in knowing that he died doing what he loved. We’re glad to have some closure now, and we feel we can move on and honour his legacy by training and inspiring the next generation of divers.”
Mr Baker was reported missing at 6.55pm on Sunday July 8 last year. Despite an extensive search involving three lifeboats, an RAF helicopter and numerous small boats, it was not until two weeks later that the body of Mr Baker, 74, of Filey Road, Scarborough, was found.
He was located in 27 metres of water, five miles off Scarborough, near the stern of the wreck Constantine.
The North Yorkshire East Coroner, Michael Oakley said it appeared Mr Baker, a retired senior member of staff at RAF Fylingdales, had suffered a heart attack as he dived and then lost consciousness.
His wife, Rosalyn Baker, said her husband was meticulous in looking after his diving equipment but had told her he felt “a bit nervous” about the dive before leaving home last July.
However, she said he added: “I’ll be all right when I get there.”
Dr William Low, a consultant pathologist and expert in diving, said: “It is my opinion that exertion associated with the dive (by Mr Baker) resulted in instability of the heart.”
Christopher Robinson, who was in charge of the dive, said five divers had been taking part.
Anchors had been fitted to the wreck before the dive began. “The weather was perfect – it was very warm and the sea was flat with good visibility”.
Two of the diving team had immediately followed Mr Baker from the boat but after about 15 to 20 minutes they could find no trace of him.
Thomas Miller, another diver, said: “We had all talked and agreed to stick together. Chris had a lot of knowledge of wrecks and their history.”
The divers carried out extensive searches before they were forced to get to the surface.
A major emergency services operation was launched, which included both Scarborough lifeboats, both Whitby lifeboats, coastguard teams and a search and rescue helicopter.
The Yorkshire and Humberside Underwater Search Unit continued looking in the area off Ravenscar for several days.
Clive Ward, a self employed engineer from Helmsley, said he had carried out a major search when Mr Baker’s body had not been found after two weeks.
He eventually found him off the stern of the wreck, and confirmed to the Coroner that he believed Mr Baker had landed on the seabed after suffering a heart attack.
“I only found him after my third or fourth sweep of the area,” he added.
Recording a verdict of death by natural causes, at the inquest last Wednesday, Mr Oakley said: “He was a very experienced diver.
“It was a very hot day and he was very hot.
“He had been given assistance in putting on his diving equipment.”