While diving on a central Wisconsin lake over the weekend, Milton Floyd and diving partner James Jordan might have violated a key scuba rule: Never make a second victim. But neither would have left the other behind, Floyd's wife said Monday.
"They made the best decisions that they could possible under the circumstances," said CJ Floyd, Milton's wife of 26 years. "The two of them loved each other so much. They weren't going to leave their buddy."
The two were diving with another friend on Wazee Lake, which is popular among divers for its depth and clarity and is a day-trip from the Twin Cities.
Jordan, 57, of Eagan, died at Black River Memorial Hospital. Floyd, 60, of Minneapolis, died at Hennepin County Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest while being treated in the hospital's hyperbaric chamber, his wife said.
The third man on the dive, 53-year-old Milo Squires of Chaska, was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center and released. CJ Floyd said Squires was at a lesser depth and was heading to the surface because he was running low on air.
Authorities have released few details about the incident, saying it is still under investigation. Autopsy results for Jordan were pending, but authorities have said Jordan suffered an apparent heart attack.
Floyd and Jordan were in familiar water. Wazee Lake, an iron mine that closed nearly 30 years ago and was flooded, was one of their favorite diving sites, CJ Floyd said. It has a maximum depth of 355 feet, offering some of the deepest water in the Midwest.
"He loved to go there," she said of her husband. "There are several dive sites on the lake there and each offered its own unique characteristics."
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said Floyd likely died from the sudden change in pressure related to a rapid ascent from a deep dive.
CJ Floyd said it was strange that her husband's death was related to decompression illness, which is caused by gas bubbles that form in the blood because of a sudden drop in pressure in the body.
Dr. Bjorn Westgard, one of the doctors at HCMC who treats decompression illness, said symptoms can range from relatively minor ailments to life-threatening conditions.
"They can involve everything from the skin and the musculoskeletal system to more concerning kinds of things involving the cardio-vascular, pulmonary or central nervous systems," said Westgard, who didn't treat Floyd.
While decompression illness affects some scuba divers, it rarely leads to death. It's much more likely for a scuba diver to die of drowning or from having a heart attack or stroke while submerged.
In general, scuba diving deaths are rare. The Divers Alert Network, an international association for the treatment and prevention of diving-related injuries, reported 53 scuba-related deaths in its most recent annual report, for 2008.
Still, scuba divers must take precautions, especially when it comes to safely rising to the surface.
A safe ascent can take 30 minutes or more, because multiple pauses are needed along the way, said scuba diving instructor Jerry Petru of Burnsville.
"You may have to stop at 100 feet and do a safety stop for eight minutes, then do another safety stop at 60 feet for eight minutes. Then you may wind up doing your final safety stop at 15 feet for eight or even as many as 15 minutes," said Petru, who knew both divers. "It's really based on the time you've spent on the bottom, plus the time you've been in the water."
CJ Floyd said her husband was a certified scuba diving instructor and knew the dangers of decompression illness. But because both her husband and Jordan are gone, finding answers may be difficult, she said.
"We're never going to know what happened down under the water on Saturday because we have no witness to the actual event," she said.
Floyd said her husband has been diving since getting lessons while on a cruise. He and Jordan were best friends and had been scuba diving together in Cozumel, Mexico, Florida and the Great Lakes.
Milton Floyd will be remembered at a memorial service on Thursday at Lake Harriet Christian Church. His wife plans to spread his ashes on the Great Lakes, which is what he requested.
"I'll take him back on one more dive trip," she said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)