In my previous 2018 HIFF posts, I discussed the work of Rob Stewart (The Genious Behind Sharkwater Extinction & Sharkwater Extinction’s Worldwide Impacts). With those posts in mind, you will understand why it has been difficult to write about his death.
Producer, activist, Biologist, Diving Instructor, and friend to many, Rob’s tragic death occurred on his final dive as he was nearing the completion of Sharkwater Extinction. According to an article in the publishing Outside titled What Happened to Rob Stewart, the accident was described as a tragic accident. Again, and according to this same article; Sotis and Rob surfaced together and while Rob signaled to the boat crew an OK signal Sotis appeared shakey. The boat crew tended to Sotis who blacked out on the boat; the team in confusion lost track of Rob and immediately notified the coast guard.
Twenty volunteer boats, twelve civilian aircraft, thirteen scuba divers, one fixed-wing aircraft a remotely operated submersible vehicle, and the US Coastguard searched for Rob for forty-eight hours with no luck. This search party saturated over 1,300 square miles but continued to be unsuccessful. Shortly after the search was called off, 72 hours into the search, a team from Key Largo Fire and Rescue found Rob at the ocean’s bottom 300ft from his last known position.
Again written in the Outside article experienced Technical Divers who were interviewed, questioned why Stewart and Sotis attempted three deep dives in one day? Most experienced rebreather divers would attempt two such dives at most. Pete Bethune, founder of Earthrace, also admittedly perplexed over the questionable circumstances of Rob’s death decided to conduct his own investigation.
In Bethune’s four-minute youtube video The Man Behind Rob Stewart’s Death; he clearly points to negligent actions of Peter Sotis and his company Add Helium. Add Helium has since filed for bankruptcy as have Sotis and his partners. Bethune doesn’t reveal his sources leading to his damning accusation of Sotis and company, but one aspect of Bethune video is certainly without question a fact. Rob Stewart is dead and the world has lost one of its leading shark conservationists.
As I conducted my research on Rob Stewart leading up to my participation at HIFF 2018 I became a fan. While I do remember watching Sharkewater years ago, I never truly knew who Rob Stewart was until now. He is an amazing person and filmmaker. I agree with Bethune and the world that Rob Stewart will be missed.