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Marine Dies Scuba Diving off Mission Beach

Staci Jackson, 26, was a Philadelphia native stationed at Camp Pendleton.

The body of a woman scuba diver was recovered Sunday from a ship that was sunk off Mission Beach as a tourist attraction, and family members said she was a Camp Pendleton Marine.

NBC San Diego reported that a family member came forward to identify the stricken diver as Staci Jackson, 26, who was a Marine at Camp Pendleton for the last 2 1/2 years. The station said Jackson was a Philadelphia native.

Her body was found in the Yukon, a former Canadian minesweeper that landed on the ocean bottom at an unintended angle, potentially trapping scuba divers, other enthusiasts said.

“We recovered the body about 9:30 a.m. and it has been transported to our operations dock at Mission Bay Lifeguard headquarters,” said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum.

The woman’s dive partners noticed she was missing when they surfaced Saturday, according to San Diego lifeguards and U.S. Coast Guard personnel, who helped recover the body.

The accident was reported about 2:30 p.m., and the body was first spotted by recreational divers at the sunken ship about 4:30 p.m. Because of the fading daylight and rough surface conditions, authorities had planned to recover the body at first light Sunday.

What went wrong was unclear.

David Pierce, director of the San Diego Council of Divers, has dived the Yukon site and said it presents dangers.

“The ship is actually laying on its side, it did not go down properly,” Pierce said. “Because it’s on its side, divers can get disoriented in there pretty quickly.”

Pierce said he knew of a diving instructor several years ago who got into the engine room of the Yukon, which had been welded shut. That diver got tangled in the wreckage, ran out of air and drowned.

“The bottom of the wreck is 100 feet down and at that depth you might have only 17 minutes of air time down there,” Pierce said.

The woman was part of a diving class with four students that was off the motor vessel Humboldt, authorities said.

The depth of the 366-foot Yukon, a Canadian destroyer sunk to form an artificial reef in 2000, ranges from about 55 feet to 100 feet. It and other intentionally scuttled vessels form what divers call “wreck alley.”

-City News Service

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