Scuba diver is sucked into nuclear power plant intake pipe

Scuba diver was sucked in by the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant intake pipe.
Scuba diver was sucked in by the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant intake pipe. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Scuba diver Christopher Le Cun thought he was going to die after getting sucked into the intake pipe at St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant off Hutchinson Island in Florida last summer.

“He got sucked in like a wet noodle,” Robert Blake, who saw his friend disappear, told WPTV in West Palm Beach on Thursday. “He just, poof, gone.”

Asked what he thought at that point, Blake replied, “Instant death. I saw my friend die.”

Fortunately, Le Cun survived the terrifying ordeal that occurred in July and is now filing suit against the Florida Power and Light for negligence for inadequate safety precautions, according to the Palm Beach Post and WPTV, which detailed the harrowing incident in this report:

Le Cun and Blake were diving with friends and family, going from rock pile to rock pile when they saw a yellow buoy. Seeing no warning signs, they tied the boat to the buoy and dove into the water to check it out.

“I swam right up to this big structure and it looks like a building underwater. I felt a little bit of current,” Le Cun told WPTV. “All of a sudden it got a little quicker and I said, ‘This ain’t right, this ain’t right.’

St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps

“I kind of felt like I got sucked over a waterfall and just instantly complete darkness. I was getting tumbled around and around. I’m trying to hold on to my mask and my regulator. I finally get ahold of my light and I’m trying to look around. As far as you can see, it’s just black.”

The pipe is 16-feet across and about a quarter-mile long. It takes in 500,000 gallons of water per minute, and the water is used to cool the plant’s nuclear reactors.

“I knew something was drawing all this water,” Le Cun said. “All I could think about was these horror movies you know, this big turbine coming and I’m coming for it. You know, it’s going to chop me up and kill me.”

During the five-minute journey, Le Cun thought about pulling the regulator out of his mouth and just dying but started thinking about his family. Suddenly a flicker of light in the distance gave him hope. It started getting bigger and bigger.

“Then all of a sudden just, poof, daylight,” Le Cun told WTPV. “Fish everywhere, crystal-clear water, the sun is shining and I’m like, ‘Is this heaven?'”

A scuba diver tells WPTV his harrowing tale.
A scuba diver tells WPTV his harrowing tale. Photo: Courtesy of WPTV

Upon surfacing he called out for help from a very surprised worker, and immediately asked to use a phone to call his wife.

Wife Brittany, who was on the boat holding their son and praying, thought he had died and it wasn’t until the third time this strange number popped up on the phone that she answered it with a “hello?”

“I’m alive,” Le Cun said, prompting a huge and obvious sigh of relief.

A spokesman for Florida Power and Light told WPTV that since the plant was built the buoy has always read “stay back 100 feet.”

“Nothing is more important safety at our St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plants, which is a reason that we have a protective over the intake piping,” Florida Power and Light said in a statement to WPTV. “The diver intentionally swam into one of the intake pipes after bypassing a piece of equipment to minimize the entry of objects.”

This is at least the second time a scuba diver has been sucked into the intake pipe at St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. A scuba diver in 1989 had a similar tale of terror.

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