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Boat skipper sued for £500k by son of dead diver says he was only “taxi driver”

A boat skipper being sued for £500,000 by a schoolboy who father died during a diving trip told a court he was only the “taxi driver”.

Andrew Cuthbertson said his responsibility when taking experienced divers on his vessel was to “get them where they want to go”.

Lex Warner, 50, lost his life in 2012 after taking part in a deep dive to a shipwreck from Cuthbertson’s Orkney -based boat.

Cuthbertson said Lex stated, “Get me in the f***ing water”, despite Lex suffering an on-board fall moments earlier.

Debbie Warner and son Vincent at the Court of Session on Tuesday.

Lex’s widow Debbie Warner pursued damages against Cuthbertson’s Scapa Flow Charters (SFC) but the case was “time-barred”.

The couple’s nine-year-old son Vincent was later allowed to mount the action instead, which accuses SFC of negligence over Lex’s death.

Giving evidence at the first day of the civil case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Cuthbertson said he’d taken nine divers, including Lex, for a dive near Cape Wrath.

Asked if the group were “experienced” divers, the 63-year-old said: “Very. Top end of the heap.”

They were taking part in a “technical” dive which can involve going to distances of 100 metres underwater.

Andrew Smith QC, acting for SFC, asked what the skipper’s role was when dealing with those experienced in the sport.

Cuthbertson said he viewed himself as a “taxi driver or bus driver to get them where they want to go”.

He added: “That to me in basically my responsibility.”

Debbie and Lex with son Vincent.
Debbie and Lex with son Vincent.

Cuthbertson said he took the party out on the third day of their six-day expedition on August 14 2012 on his charter boat, the MV Jean Elaine.

He said he became aware Lex, who was wearing his full diving equipment, had suffered a fall and was on his knees with hands flat on the deck.

Cuthbertson told the court he and another boat worker “shoved” Lex back to his feet. He said Lex was “cursing himself for being so stupid and daft” but wasn’t hurt and said he was “perfectly fine”.

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Cuthbertson recalled asking Lex if he wanted to “sit this one out”, but said the dad-of-one replied: “No, no, no. Let me in the water. Get me in the f***ing water.”

He recalled the moment he later knew something might be wrong when he saw a “single fin sticking in the air” from the foot of a diver in the water.

Lex Warner on a diving trip.
Lex Warner on a diving trip.

Robert Milligan QC, acting for Vincent Warner, asked if Cuthbertson had responsibility for the safety of his boat’s passengers.

He replied: “I do my best to be responsible for it.”

SFC contests liability in the case.

Earlier Lex’s friend and diving expert Eugene Farrell, a former chairman of the British sub aqua club, gave evidence.

The 59-year-old, who told the court he’d been on around 100 dives with Lex, acknowledged technical diving can be “dangerous” and requires a great deal of training.

He described Lex as a “very careful and confident” diver whom he felt “very comfortable” going on dives with.

The MV Jean Elaine charter boat.
The MV Jean Elaine charter boat.

The court heard Lex had been to his GP a week before the fatal dive and his doctor had prescribed him an antibiotic and advised him against diving.

Mr Smith asked if going ahead with the diving trip was “at odds” with Lex being careful, the witness replied it looked “slightly odd”.

He added Lex was a heavy smoker and often had a cough.

Debbie, 50, and son Vincent, from Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, were in court for yesterday’s hearing.

The case continues before Lord Sandison.



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