Tulsa Woman's Strange Disappearance

Wednesday, November 22nd 2006, 10:48 am
By: News On 6

It's been four months since 28-year-old Ashley Mauldin of Tulsa disappeared on a scuba dive in Florida. She was a native of Tulsa and since her body was never found, her family here still questions what happened to her.

A US Coast Guard investigation found she should have never been allowed to dive in the ocean. The body of was never found, and that's made her family her question what happened to her.

Reporter Beau Zimmer has the story from Tampa.

Monday July 11, the Coast Guard receives a distress call from a small boat, 14 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Ashley’s mother Charlotte Callis: "They just said something horrible has happened, and they said Ashley had been lost at sea.”

28-year-old Ashley Mauldin, an honors graduate from the University of Tulsa, disappeared underwater while scuba diving with friends, her husband Michael and stepdaughter Katey. US Coast Guard senior investigator Lt. Roberts Butts: "She had completed initial dive training at the dive center, she had gone through pool instruction but she wasn't yet familiar with those environments, the currents, the tides."

In fact, Ashley was not even certified. The day she disappeared was her very first time diving in open waters. Coast Guard crews searched 1,600 square miles of the Gulf around the area where Ashley disappeared. But after three days, the search was called off with no sign of Ashley or any of her diving equipment.

Ashley's mother has spent the past four months waiting for answers. Charlotte Callis: "My gut tells me something is terribly wrong here. And I don't want there to be anything terribly wrong here.” But Coast Guard Senior investigator Lt. Robert Butts says after his exhaustive investigation, searching the boat, and interviewing everyone on board, there is no sign Ashley's disappearance was anything more than a terrible accident. "I did not ever determine, or find any facts that there was something criminal in nature."

There are no state or federal laws regulating who can or can't go diving, but the industry itself follows a strict set of standards intended to prevent deaths like Ashley's. In fact, most dive shops won't usually rent or sell air tanks to divers unless they can prove they're certified. PADI certified dive instructor/trainer Ed Krawczyk: "We've turned people away. When it comes to safety we're uncompromising. So we just won't sell it to them."

Lt. Roberts Butts: "this is an unfortunate accident that should have never happened.” Charlotte Callis: "accidents happen, and if I could get some answers, to some of the inconsistencies in the story, then maybe I could be at peace with that. I just have a lot of questions. Things don't make sense."

Authorities determined it was Ashley's diving instructor who sold her the air tank she was using.

The FBI has taken a DNA sample from Ashley's mother in case Ashley's body is ever found.