Scuba diving accident claims UA student, 22

By Kimberly Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The body of a 22-year-old University of Arizona student was recovered yesterday from Lake Powell in Page.

Brian C. Liechty, a molecular and cellular biology freshman from Tucson, was last seen scuba diving with a friend in the Lake Powell area Nov. 12. Police believe Liechty, an amateur diver, was sucked down by increasing water pressure as he tried to touch the bottom of a 250-foot-deep area of the lake.

"I guess before he went in he told his friend he was going to try and touch the bottom," said Lt. Ron Anderson, of the Page Police Department. "But he had no idea how deep the lake was. He thought it was only 68 feet."

Anderson said the maximum depth a person can go with normal scuba gear is about 100 feet. After that, the water pressure increases and pulls down on the diver.

"You'll be fighting and struggling against the pressure and it just drags you down," mid

Anderson said. "He also had a weight belt on that probably just exhausted him quicker."

Anderson said without special equipment a diver at this depth will experience a condition called narcosis, where pressure causes a lack of oxygen to the brain and results in an intoxicated feeling and eventually unconsciousness.

Liechty's friend notified authorities about a half an hour after he made the dive. He initially believed Liechty had surfaced elsewhere and may have climbed onto one of the nearby houseboats.

Rick Emery of the Coconino County Sheriff's Department said underwater cameras and the Coconino County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Dive Team were used in the search, but did not find Liechty's body until yesterday. He said the body was found by a deep water robot with video equipment and a robotic arm.

"We have made several attempts since he was first reported missing," Anderson said. "We couldn't find anything because either we had equipment failure or visibility was about two inches in front of the camera."

Anderson said because Lake Powell is man-made, it has a silt and sediment problem that makes searching underwater almost impossible. He said several people who have drowned in the lake have never been found.

Liechty's body was found wedged in the rocky bottom of the marina area, directly beneath where he was diving.

Anderson said drownings in Lake Powell are fairly common and he usually sees about seven to 11 per year.

"It happens all the time here," Anderson said. "We have several people we have never found. We were just really, really happy to find Liechty. Even though finding his body opens up old wounds for the family, it's kind of a closure and a relief."

Liechty is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Liechty of Tucson.

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