SCUBA TEACHER FACING CHARGES
By Josh Bean
A former University of Alabama scuba instructor faces criminal charges and a civil lawsuit involving the 2007 death of a Fairhope High School graduate.
A Tuscaloosa County grand jury indicted 44-year-old Allison Rainey Gibson last week, accusing her of criminally negligent homicide in the death of 21-year-old Zachary Moore, who died during a scuba diving class at the University in April 2007.
Christopher Moore -- Zachary Moore’s father -- filed a civil lawsuit in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court last week against Gibson, the company that employed her and Scuba Schools International, the organization that certified her as an “SSI open water diver,” according to online court records.
Christopher Moore declined to comment on Gibson’s indictment Tuesday afternoon, citing the ongoing criminal investigation and pending civil case, although he called his late son “an exceptional young man.”
Wayne Williams, a Tuscaloosa-based lawyer representing Gibson in the criminal case, said he was not aware of the civil suit and offered no details about the case.
“The grand jury indicted on one side of the story,” Williams said in a phone interview. “We will have a defense.”
Zachary Moore died in April 2007 during a training exercise. The drill involved taking off scuba equipment at the bottom of an 18-foot-deep pool, and coming up without it, according to previous reports.
Moore inhaled pressurized air from his equipment while he descended, but an autopsy revealed he didn't exhale while swimming to the surface, a state medical examiner told the Press-Register last year. That caused pressurized air to expand within his lungs and body, affecting all of his vital organs in a condition known as barotrauma, the medical examiner said.
The civil lawsuit alleges that Gibson was not in the pool during the training exercise. Instead, the lawsuit says, Gibson was giving a private lesson to Lewis Fitts, who was not enrolled in the class, at the opposite end of the pool. Gibson left two men with less scuba expertise in charge, the lawsuit alleges, which led to Moore’s death.
University officials stopped the scuba class after Moore’s death, and Gibson no longer teaches there.
A number for Gibson, obtained through directory assistance, had been disconnected Tuesday. She turned herself in to authorities Friday, but is no longer at the Tuscaloosa County Jail, according to a jailer.
Criminally negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The civil suit does not specify monetary damages sought and only asks a jury to award “such sums as the jury may assess and are recoverable by law.”