Diver missing since Aug. 24 found dead

Man discovered off Lena Point had a nearly full tank of air

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2007

A 43-year-old diver found dead in the water off Lena Point on Wednesday had been missing since Aug. 24, Juneau police said.

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Friends and family concerned for Kevin Gallagher's whereabouts called divers to look for him in the water near his Lena Point home after finding a dive bag in his truck Wednesday, police said.

Gallagher was not reported missing, and police became involved only after unidentified divers pulled him from the water and placed him in his truck.

The last time anyone heard from him was Aug. 24, Sgt. Dave Campbell said.

Divers found Gallagher floating untethered near the bottom, 30 yards from his boat and 100 feet from shore.

"He did not have his regulator in his mouth," Campbell said.

Police believe Gallagher was retrieving his mooring anchor when he died.

An autopsy is expected this morning in Anchorage. Until then police cannot say what caused Gallagher's death, but foul play is not suspected.

Gallagher's tank still held 2,800 pounds of pressure when the divers found him.

The regulator, which fits in the diver's mouth, released air when depressed and his gear appeared to be in working order, Campbell said.

"That's almost a full tank," said Art Sutch, a local dive master with a long history in Southeast Alaska waters.

Sutch said a full tank is generally pressurized to 3,000 pounds.

"What ever happened, happened at the start of the dive," Sutch said. "Sounds like something physical."

Police did not say if Gallagher was scuba-certified or what his diving experience was.

Carleen Mitchell at the Scuba Tank said Gallagher did not get his tank filled at her Mendenhall Valley scuba shop. Mitchell said Gallagher was not known at the only commercial filling station in Juneau, and she did not know his dive qualifications.

Local diver Mike Williams said a lot of things can go wrong in the water. Divers get tangled, equipment malfunctions, and some just push it too far and run out of air, he said.

"When you dive alone with no one to back you up, you need to be competent and have a back-door out," Williams said. "It can happen real quick."

Campbell said a more thorough inspection of the tank and dive equipment was not yet done. The tank's expiration date and last certification were not known.

Campbell said friends and family became concerned Saturday after not hearing from Gallagher.

His cell phone had not been answered since Saturday.

"It was active on Friday," Campbell said.

Gallagher's family did not respond to a call Thursday by the Empire.

What happened to Gallagher between Aug. 24 and Wednesday is unknown at this point, Campbell said. Police hope for better insight into when and how Gallagher died from autopsy results.

Police assume that Gallagher was in the water since Saturday. His family said his truck did not move and he wasn't home, Campbell said.

Sutch said it's very unlikely that Gallagher was in the water near his boat for five days. To only move 30 feet during that time is strange, he said.

"The current rips there," he said.

• Contact Greg Skinnerat 523-2258, or greg.skinner@juenauempire.com.

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