Dive master testifies in Watson honeymoon death trial - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Dive master testifies in Watson trial


Despite the President's Day holiday, the Gabe Watson murder trial resumed Monday morning. Several witnesses took the stand today, including a dive master, the president for a diving equipment company, and the best friend of Tina Watson.

Dr. Doug Milsap testified last Friday about talking to Watson after his wife's death. Milsap was on the same scuba diving trip in which Watson's wife, Tina, drowned. He said Watson told him he tried to save Tina, but she was too heavy and he lost his grip. Milsap says he got upset and questioned Watson's story because she should not have been that heavy.

Prosecutors say Watson turned off his wife's oxygen tank while she sank to the ocean floor, on their Australian honeymoon in 2003.

First on the stand this morning was Adam White, an executive with a company called Oceanic, which makes diving equipment. Oceanic makes the dive computer that Gabe Watson was wearing during his 2003 dive.

That computer is able to record information from Watson's dive and on the day of Tina's death, it recorded that Watson was in the water almost 7 minutes; that he had a max depth of 54 feet; and that he got to the surface in 2 to 3 mins time. In earlier testimony, jurors were told that Watson had recounted to authorities that he had "rapidly" ascended to seek help for Tina. However, a previous witness said he saw Watson ascending at a moderate rate.

White said that when one looks at all the data that was recorded, the 2-3 minute ascent is actually considered a "rapid ascent."

Amanda Lorenz Phillips, Tina's best friend from high school, also took the stand. She talked about different conversations and situations with Gabe after Tina died. She recalled looking through honeymoon photos where Tina and Gabe had gone sightseeing through Australia before the dive trip.

Phillips said she noticed several pictures of Tina standing next to signs saying "warning" or "strong current." She said that when her face changed while looking at those photos, Gabe commented that the photos seemed kind of morbid now.

She recounted another conversation at Tina's funeral. While at the funeral home, she testified that she and Gabe approached Tina's casket together. Phillips said she commented on how pretty Tina looked to which Gabe replied, "At least her breasts [look] perky."

Phillips also told jurors about a phone conversation she and Gabe had a little over a month after Tina died. During that talk, Phillips said Gabe mentioned plans to go to Tina's job and present her death certificate for insurance purposes.

She said he also mentioned he and Tina had talked about changing life insurance policies in September, before their wedding.

"And he laughed and said 'It's kind of funny because for $10 more Tina could have $1 million life insurance policy. And it's a good thing we didn't do that otherwise I'd be in an Australian jail right now on involuntary manslaughter charges.'" Phillips told jurors.

She testified that she had replied: "I guess it's a good thing you didn't."

During cross examiniation defense attorneys tried to point out that Tina didn't have a $1 million policy and didn't qualify for such a policy. They also challenged Phillips on whether she knew that the policy had actually been changed.

The third witness to take the stand today was Uzi Barnai, who was living and working in Australia at the time of the dive. He worked on the Spoilsport, the boat on which the Watson's took their 7-day excursion.

He testified that he heard there was an emergency in the water on the morning Oct. 22, 2003. He rushed over to the area to where Tina was being brought out of the water and recounted his efforts to help resuscitate her.

He told jurors that he remembered seeing a little blood and foam coming out of her mouth, but no water which he thought was unusual. But during cross examination defense attorneys reminded him of a statement he made to authorities shortly after the accident. In that statement he said he had seen a little blood and a lot of water coming from her mouth.

The final witness to take the stand today was Wade Singleton, who was the trip director on the 7-day excursion. He talked about holding an orientation dive for inexperienced divers before the SS Yongala dive. He said at one point Tina, being an inexperienced diver, told him that she would take part of the orientation. When it came time for that session, she told him that she wasn't going to do it.

Singleton also talked about finding her body on the ocean floor. He said that he was in the water with another group of divers and he saw someone just laying on the ocean floor. At first he said that he thought it was someone trying to see fish but rushed over to her when the she wasn't moving, didn't have a buddy diver, and there were no bubbles coming from their mouth.

He testified that he was able to bring her to the surface in roughly a minute and half's time.

Singleton also helped Austrailian dive polce with conducting reenactments shortly after Tina's death. But defense attorneys have argued against allowing the reenactment testimony to be heard by jurors. Circuit Judge Tommy Nail said he would consider allowing the reenactment evidence and give attorneys his answer tomorrow.

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