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Published: 14:56, 14 November 2019
| Updated: 15:37, 14 November 2019
A seasick diver who died off the Kent coast is thought to have thrown up underwater before he went missing - but the exact details behind his death remain a mystery.
Doting father-of-three Ben Moss was one of a trio of divers planning to explore the sunken shipwreck of the SS Loanda, four miles from Dover.
But the trip ended in tragedy when the Faversham-based flooring company boss, who was showing signs of seasickness, went missing just moments after he entered the water.
Specialist diving teams, helicopters and lifeboat crews desperately searched for the 42-year-old and his sudden disappearance was logged with Interpol.
Yet, 20 months later, Mr Moss’s body has never been found - leaving his agonised family with an irreplaceable hole and unanswered questions.
The likely series of events that led to the tragedy were revealed at an inquest last Thursday, with heartbroken wife Rosie Moss saying she can take some comfort from its resolution.
“Ben wished me goodbye, said he loved me and left for a day’s scuba diving,” she said.
“He never returned to me and our three young children.
“For the last 20 months, the agony of the loss has been compounded by having no idea why he died or exactly how he spent his final hours. Nothing can ever lessen the pain of our loss but a few of the many questions that have hung over us for nearly two years have been answered - that is some comfort.”
Mr Moss, who leaves behind two young sons and a daughter, was said to be in good spirits before the ill-fated dive.
He was onboard the Maverick boat with skipper Chris Webb and two other experienced scuba divers, Rob Moody and Mehdi Zinetti.
They had originally planned to explore to the huge wreckage of the SS Andaman, but the group agreed to opt for the shallower SS Loanda due to the “moderate to rough” tide conditions.
Prior to the dive, the boat was “pitching and rolling as if on a rollercoaster”, and Mr Moody - who was seasick - decided not to go in the water.
Upon arriving at the site - about 40 minutes away from shore - Mr Zinetti, who was also feeling the effects of seasickness, dived in first.
He was due to be followed in by Mr Moss, but due to difficulties with his glove, his entry was partly delayed.
When he did jump in, he quickly resurfaced to release air from his buoyancy control device before submerging once again.
That was to be the last time he was seen.
Bubbles were spotted on the surface “for about a minute” - but it was not deemed uncommon and no alarm bells were raised.
However, evidence suggests the bubbles could potentially have been a result of seasick Mr Moss taking off his mouthpiece in order to throw up before he was taken off course by the strong current.
The further a diver descends towards the seabed, the water’s current relaxes and any nervous stomachs begin to ease - but Mr Moss did not reach the bottom.
After making his way down and releasing the grappling hook attached to the shipwreck, Mr Zinetti waited to see if Mr Moss was following him.
“I started looking up for Ben and was waving my torch to see if he was coming,” he explained.
“I felt the shot line (equipment used to descend) and couldn’t feel movement.
“After about three minutes of waiting, it was clear to me Ben didn’t dive. I thought ‘I’m alone’ and cracked on with it.”
Mr Zinetti, who was below for about 55 minutes, recalled how he never saw Mr Moss in the water and how there were no signs anyone had been down at the wreckage with him.
He also stated that he believed Mr Moss “must have made a mistake” in the lead up to his disappearance as his diving kit was in a “fairly good state”.
“It’s just speculation but if he didn’t have the mouthpiece in, that would potentially be the mistake. I would try and keep the regulator in my mouth and puke. Going diving when not feeling well was a mistake.
“Solo diving is not something I would recommend - I do it personally because I consider myself very experienced.”
'It’s impossible to say what the problem was' - Assistant coroner Katrina Hepburn
Upon realising Mr Moss was missing, an extensive search in the Channel was launched.
The disappearance was logged with Interpol and other countries were put on alert in case a body washed up on their shores.
Giving evidence, DS Nicky Holland-Day said: “There were several bodies that were recovered. Every single time we made checks to find out if it was Ben, but it never was.
“Ben did not reach the seabed and died while under some unknown distress.”
Upon hearing all of the evidence, assistant coroner Katrina Hepburn declared an open verdict for Mr Moss’ death.
“It’s impossible to say what the problem was,” she said. “It may have been the case he was sick. We simply don’t know. Equally, equipment could have been faulty. Or equally, he lost his grip on the shot line.
“I can’t say where he is or how he came to die. I’m sorry I can’t provide more answers to this grieving family.”
Three deaths in space of a year:
Mr Moss, who first began diving while on his honeymoon in Egypt, is one of three men to have recently died following a scuba dive from the Maverick boat.
US diver Bruce Hottum and French national Thierry Raibaut were both deemed to have died from misadventure following separate inquests.
The three incidents, which happened across a space of just eight months from July 2017 until March 2018, sparked a thorough police investigation.
DS Nicky Holland-Day said: “Police have carried out a number of inquiries to establish the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three divers in Dover.
"However we found no evidence to suggest any criminality and as such our reports were provided to the coroner.
"Our thoughts are with the families and we have kept them updated throughout our inquiries. As with all investigations, we will review any new evidence that comes to light.”
More by this authorJoe Wright