Tulsa woman on first scuba dive outside pool drowns in lake

Sunday, April 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GARFIELD, Ark. (AP) _ A Tulsa, Okla., woman making her first scuba dive outside a swimming pool drowned Saturday in Beaver Lake, the Benton County sheriff's office said.

Sri Lestari, 33, and a group of students and instructors from Tulsa had come for their first dive in so-called ``wild'' water. A news release from the sheriff's office said the outing was a certification dive, with two instructors and several inexperienced divers.

Jonathan Stuart, also of Tulsa, who said he was Lestari's boyfriend, said the woman mostly likely became tangled in underwater branches.

``The water was 62 degrees,'' Stuart said. ``It was really murky, and I don't think we should have been out here.''

Stuart said his girlfriend was a petroleum engineer who had worked in Scotland, Egypt and Australia. ``She was always trying different things,'' he said.

Members of the Benton County Dive Team pulled Lestari from 30 to 40 feet of water in an area of Beaver Lake known as Indian Bow, just southeast of Garfield, the sheriff's office said.

Stuart said the pair somehow got separated underwater from other members of a five-member team from Poseidon Adventures, a diving school in Tulsa.

Dive master Eric Isaacs said when he noticed two of the students missing he surfaced with his class. Once above water he saw Stuart, but not Lestari, Isaacs said.

Isaacs said he got his students out of the water and began searching for Lestari. A student went to a nearby construction site at 3:55 p.m. and called 911, he said.

``As soon as it happened I was in the water a good 30 to 40 minutes,'' Isaacs said. The visibility was 5 to 6 feet in bad spots and up to 10 feet in other places, the dive master said.

Stuart said that, during the dive, he signaled to Lestari to surface and she responded, but when he got to the surface he discovered she had not come up.

Isaacs did not know how long Lestari might have been without air. He said she had a half tank of air left _ which should have lasted 45 to 60 minutes _ when she was pulled from the water.

``She may have gotten tangled and panicked,'' Isaacs said.

Stuart said Lestari had dived once before in a swimming pool, but Isaacs said she had two pool dives.

``She was qualified to be out here,'' Isaacs said.

The class had been in the lake since 11 a.m. and had already completed one dive.

Lestari's body will be sent to the state medical examiner's office for a determination of the cause of death.