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Intake Pipe Sucks Up Scuba Diver

June 7, 1989 GMT

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) _ An offshore intake pipe sucked up a scuba diver and pulled him 1,650 feet through the duct, depositing him at a nuclear power plant.

″I thought I was dead,″ said William Lamm, 45, who was spearfishing when he was pulled into the 16-foot diameter, barnacle-studded pipe off Florida Power & Light’s St. Lucie nuclear plant on the Atlantic Coast.

″It was darker than any dark I’ve ever seen, and I tried to hold my arms in front of me for balance, but I tumbled and bounced all over the sides of the pipe.″

Lamm’s trip through the plant cooling-water system ended four minutes later in a canal at the power station, where a security guard saw him surface, FPL said. The scuba diver was shaken up and scraped but not seriously hurt.

Lamm said the suction pulled off his mask and diving gloves and ripped his mouthpiece out several times as he moved through the pipe at 7 feet per second.

The pipeline has no grating but a 70-by-70-foot cap suspended a few feet above the opening to reduce suction and prevent the capture of foreign objects such as fish and turtles, utility spokesman Gary Mehalik said Wednesday.

″You’d have to get up underneath the velocity cap and then approach it over the intake″ to get caught, he said.

The intake is marked by a buoy and is listed as a hazard on navigation charts, Mehalik said.

But Lamm said he saw no danger signs.

″There was a buoy nearby, but that marked the shallow water,″ he said. ″I got into about eight feet of water and got sucked down, then in.″

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will investigate, said spokesman Steve Horwitz in Atlanta.

Lamm, a scuba diver for five years, said it will be a long time before he dives again, if at all.