Gateshead diver Steven Slater died after 'rapid ascent' from shipwreck

Image source, Mark Dixon
Image caption,
Steven Slater had been a diver for almost 30 years and was said to be among the UK's leading professionals

A British diver exploring a wreck off the coast of the United States died after ascending too quickly, an inquest was told.

Steven Slater, from Gateshead, got into difficulties on a group excursion to the Andrea Doria, 60 nautical miles south-east of Nantucket, in July 2017.

Bubbles in the 46-year-old's blood resulted from his return to the surface, Crook Coroner's Court heard.

Coroner Leslie Hamilton gave a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest was told Mr Slater and the other group members dived to a depth of about 68 metres (220ft) and intended to explore the wreck for 20 to 30 minutes.

'Tragic accident'

His friend, Clare Fitzsimmons, said she became aware Mr Slater was struggling but the pair were unable to locate the shot line, which helps divers avoid decompression by guiding them to the surface in a controlled manner.

She told the inquest she was "heartbroken" when she returned to the surface and saw how close they had been to the line.

A post-mortem examination had found there were bubbles in Mr Slater's bloodstream with his rapid ascent being the cause of death.

Mr Hamilton said there were no faults with the equipment being used and described Mr Slater's death as a "tragic accident".

A luxury Italian liner, the Andrea Doria sank in July 1956 following a crash with a Swedish liner in thick fog.

It has become known as the "Everest of Wreck Diving" after more than a dozen divers died exploring it.