Top astronomer dies after dive

2008-11-24 10:31

Cape Town - A diving expedition ended tragically on Sunday when a well-known UCT professor and director of the Planetarium at the Iziko museums died on the quay at the Hout Bay harbour.

Professor Anthony Fairall, 65, was a professor in astronomy at the University of Cape Town, an internationally renowned astronomical expert and writer of, amongst others, Cape of Stars and Starwatching: A Southern Hemisphere Guide to the Galaxy. He had also published about 200 articles.

He and nine other divers had been scuba diving at Maori bay between Llundudno and Hout Bay on a boat belonging to Dive-Action, a centre specialising in recreational diving.

According to Brad Geyser, Commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Hout Bay, the divers were in the water and presumably came too close to the rocks.

"A wave knocked him (Fairall) against the rocks where he presumably had a heart attack."


He was rushed to the harbour in Hout Bay, where paramedics tried in vain to revive him.

At 19:00, his wife was still sitting next to her husband's body on the quay, a grey blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

There was a bloody spot on the right side of his head where he had presumably been hit by the rocks. She would not let them cover Fairall's head and kept rubbing it while sitting next to him.

Fairall's pregnant daughter later joined her, and her husband, carrying their baby son, stood to one side.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said when the injured man arrived at the Hout Bay quay, he was unconscious and had no pulse.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was used on the boat to try to revive Fairall. One of the paramedics who was at the harbour said they had struggled for more than half an hour to help Fairall.

"It is sad, but we did what we could."

The other divers, whose names were not known, had to wait for more than an hour before the NSRI could pick them up with a rescue boat.