They say that there’s someone out there for everyone, that when two people meet and fall in love, it’s written in the stars. Often, these people seem very different at first, too different to be together, but they soon bond because of certain shared loves.
Tina and Gabe shared one of those loves: scuba diving. Indeed, once they finally tied the knot, they decided to take a honeymoon trip to one of the most beautiful diving locales in the world. Sadly, their new love would soon face an unexpected setback in the form of an unforeseen tragedy…
Featured photo credit: www.heraldsun.com.au
Tina from Alabama
The beginning of Christina’s life was not an easy one. She had been born in Germany but found her way to the United States as a baby, though a baby alone. Luckily for her, she was discovered and legally adopted by two loving Americans from Walker County, Alabama. There, “Tina” and her younger sister, were given every opportunity to succeed.
As she got older, Tina began to experience a number of worrying symptoms. She would feel lightheaded, have heart palpitations and shortness of breath out of nowhere. When she started to feel chest pains as well, her parents took her to get tested. She was diagnosed with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, but it wasn’t about to slow her down…
When Tina got to college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she met up with a young man named David Gabriel Watson, but everyone called him Gabe. The two hit it off right away and by the following January, were dating in earnest. One of the things that the two of them learned to share with one another was their love of diving.
Love of Diving
Despite being diagnosed with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, Tina loved the idea of diving and even began to take beginning diving lessons. Her parents weren’t exactly happy about it, they worried that her condition would put her life at risk, but in no time at all, she earned her diving certification…
Gabe was also a qualified certified rescue diver and had gained most of his diving experience in Oak Mountain State Park. When college was done, they stayed together and before long, he popped the question. By the time they were married, the diving couple had a total of 60 dives between them, Gabe had 55 and his new wife, five.
It was because of their love of diving that the newly-minted Watsons decided to plan a honeymoon in Queensland, Australia, complete with a scuba trip to the Great Barrier Reef. The trip would take the newlyweds all the way across the globe and would end up being more life-changing than either of them ever imagined it could be…
Despite the purported difficulty of the dive, the Watsons chose to scuba dive at the popular wreck of the SS Yongala, a passenger ship that sank in 1911. This was particularly dangerous for two novice divers for several reasons, least of all because they refused an orientation with a guided divemaster. It also happened to be the first dive either of them had done deeper than 9 meters.
Nevertheless, Gabe and Tina went to the dive site. Their scuba tour of the SS Yongala started out as the life-changing experience they had hoped it would be. Beneath the ocean’s surface, the happy couple found an underwater world they could never have experienced back home. suddenly, disaster struck. The current around them started pulling them deeper…
Gabe noticed the look on his wife’s face. She felt the current too and she was beginning to get worried. The two moved closer to him and in a moment of panic, she accidentally knocked his mask clean off. Gabe couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t see…he was also 9 meters beneath the water’s surface.
Thankfully, he managed to get the mask back on quickly. Once he had his bearings, he looked around for his wife. Christina was nowhere to be found. He looked down, gazing in horror as he watched his new bride sinking to the bottom of the ocean. She was falling fast, far too quickly for him to try and swim down to get her…
There was a reason he couldn’t go get her. Gabe Watson also had an ear problem that prevented him from going any deeper to help her. He also couldn’t seem to remember anything in his rescue diver training “about how to get somebody” in trouble to the surface. It was, the other divers and authorities noted, not much of an excuse.
Another diver who had been present that day was Dr. Stanley Stutz. He remembered the situation very differently. In fact, he recalled seeing Gabe giving Tina a “bear hug” as she was flailing in the water. She was clearly distressed and the next time he saw her, she was being hauled out of the water but another rescuer…
Try to Save Her
Gabe had climbed aboard the diving vessel to alert dive instructor Wade Singleton, about his wife. He dove down as fast as he could but it was another 10 minutes before he was able to haul Tina to the surface. She was taken aboard the nearby dive boat and doctors tried for 40 minutes to resuscitate her, to no avail.
It was too late. Christina Watson was dead. An autopsy performed the next day revealed that the real cause of death appeared to be an air embolism, not her degenerative heart disease. She had drowned, and it may very well have been her new husband’s fault. The police just had to prove it…
The unexpected nature of Tina’s death, and the strange and conflicting statements of her husband and the other divers gave the police pause. The State Coroner’s office began the investigation but meanwhile, Gabe Watson flew back to the United States. He gave evidence to the Queensland police only through his lawyers.
A few weeks later, another diver, Gary Stempler, got all of his diving pictures developed. He noticed that he had a particularly grim one which showed Christina lying on the bottom of the ocean and that it seemed to imply that whatever had happened during that dive, it certainly wasn’t part of the story Gabe was telling…
The inconsistencies were enough to see David tried for murder. He was sent to Australia for trial and during the proceedings, it became revealed that he had told no less than 16 separate stories about the events of that fateful day. As if that weren’t enough, it also seemed that not one of them matched any of the other witnesses versions of events.
The prosecution alleged that it was Gabe who had turned off Tina’s air regulator and then held her until she was unconscious, before turning the air back on and letting her sink. As to why he did this? They believed it had to do with Tina’s father asking him to increase her life insurance and making him the sole beneficiary, shortly before their wedding…
Guilty in Australia
Watson had been charged with murder, which was then changed to manslaughter when he eventually pleaded guilty to the crime. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment for the crime and was originally incarcerated in Australia before being Extradited to Alabama to be tried in an American court.
Extradition and Acquittal?
Australian authorities returned Gabe to the US on basis that he wouldn’t be given the death penalty if found guilty in Alabama. As it happened, he wasn’t. In fact, Alabama judge Tommy Nail ended up dismissing the murder case due to lack of evidence. Gabe Watson was free to go and no one would ever know if he had indeed killed his wife or if it had been an accident.