Columbia man drowns on first scuba diving trip 'Lifelong dream' ends with death off Florida

January 13, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Dale Rome of Columbia had always dreamed of diving in the ocean.

Saturday, off Key West, Fla., he drowned after completing his first scuba dive with his brother-in-law.

"It was his lifelong dream to do a dive," said his wife of 11 months, Patricia Rome, 45. "He loved seeing the fish, coral reefs and the colors of the ocean. He was a novice. He was very inexperienced for this."

Rome, 41, went with his brother-in-law, Brian McDermott of Eldersburg, to Key West Friday. In September, the two completed a scuba certification course.

McDermott said they had planned to make three dives a day off the coast of Trinity Cove, an island where the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico meet. He said they had completed a 30-minute dive Saturday and were heading back to their dive boat, 100 to 200 feet away, when the water became choppy.

"The water was rising about a foot or two, and we were trying to swim back," said McDermott, 36. "For every three feet we swam, we fell back two feet."

McDermott said the master diver passed him a tow rope in the water, then tried to give it to Rome.

His brother-in-law seemed to panic, McDermott said.

"I went into the boat and I looked back and Dale was frantically doing the dog paddle," McDermott said.

The Monroe County sheriff's office in Key West reported that the dive master said she tried to help Rome but that he struggled with her.

A search team found his body near the diving spot about an hour later, McDermott said.

McDermott said he and Rome had long talked about taking up the sport.

"Our first big dive was to go to Key West," he said. "It was something he enjoyed."

A native of New Orleans, where he was a welder on ships as a young man, Rome had been an architect for 11 years with the Navy Department in Potomac.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Witzke Funeral Home of Columbia, 5555 Twin Knolls Road.

In addition to his wife, Rome is survived by two sons from a previous marriage, Joshua Rome, 18, Michael Rome, 11, and a stepson, Sean Elliott, 23, all of Columbia; two sisters, Iris Crockett and Michele Rogers; a brother, Kevin Rome; his mother, Ruth Sanderson; his stepfather, Jim Sanderson; his father, Amos Rome; and his stepmother, Ella Rome. All are of New Orleans.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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