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DNR vows to appeal $172K penalty stemming from diver's death investigation

The Washington Department of Natural Resources said Friday it would appeal a $172,900 fine from the state Department of Labor & Industries that found numerous problems with the DNR's diving program.

DNR officials said the department has corrected most of the violations that were found during an investigation by the state Department of Labor & Industries that found numerous problems with the DRN's diving program.

"DNR takes very seriously the safety of its employees and the public," the department said in a statement Friday. "Many of our employees work outdoors in environments and on duties that are inherently risky. It is imperative that we do everything we can to foster a safe work place."

The Department of Labor & Industries issued a citation to the DNR with a proposed penalty of $172,900 on Jan. 11, and reported finding 16 worker-safety violations in the DNR diving program.

The L&I investigation was launched after the drowning death of David Scheinost, a DNR diver, last summer in the waters off the south end of Bainbridge Island.

The DNR said Scheinost's death was "tragic," and the department noted it immediately suspended dive operations after the fatal incident and conducted a comprehensive review of its dive program.

DNR officials said an independent team of dive experts was asked to complete a top-to-bottom review of the dive program. The review team included current and former master divers from the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, plus directors from the Dive Institute of Technology.

That review found 37 items that DNR needed to address, and the department said it has completed about two thirds of the action items and was working to complete the rest.

The corrective actions include acquisition, testing and maintenance of equipment, as well as additional work on training, policies and dive procedures.

DNR officials announced plans to appeal the penalties that were proposed by L&I on Friday.

"DNR intends to appeal the citation, not because DNR believes it has been treated unfairly, but rather so that DNR may fully describe to L&I the work that has been accomplished since July to improve safety within the dive program, as this relates to the specific violations contained in the citation," the department said in a statement.

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