About the Kevin Piper Jr. Memorial Fund
June 26, 2011 started out as a normal summer day. Kevin Piper Sr. , Kevin Piper Jr. and some friends went fishing and diving like they’ve done many times before. But on this particular day, instead of coming home with a sunburn and some fish for dinner, the outcome took a very tragic turn. Kevin Piper Jr, 16, decided to take a final dive to spearfish a grouper he had spotted on the dive before, and ran out of air once down. Frightened, he tried to ascend too quickly. He signaled distress to his dive buddy, Zane Osborn, who was right there to help. Kevin Piper Sr. and Robert Pippin were in the boat saw that Zane and Kevin Jr were in distress and Robert jumped in to help. Kevin Jr was able to tell Zane he felt funny, and then became unconscious. Knowing they must get him to an ambulance quickly, Kevin Sr. made it from Maryland Shoal to the KAO campgrounds in under 12 minutes where they met the ambulance. What happened next is a story that everyone needs to know.
What Keys locals Kevin, Wendy and Krystal Piper found out in the next 6 hours is any family’s nightmare…and something that should never happen in this modern day and age, and especially in a city that prides itself as a world-class diving destination.
It took over 6 hours from the time Kevin Jr. met the ambulance to the time he made it to Mercy Miami Hospital to a hyperbaric chamber….but by that time it was already too late. What the Pipers had to learn the hard way is that Key West isn’t equipped to handle a dive accident like this one.
What they did find out was this. Key West has several hyperbaric chambers, but none were available during this emergency. The Navy has one but it can’t accommodate a patient that is intubated, which Kevin Jr. was. Florida Keys Community College has one as well, but it is used strictly for training purposes only. Over the next few hours, they called several different hyperbaric chambers but they were told they weren’t able to accommodate Kevin Jr. Next, they called Mercy Miami Hospital who said they would take him. Kevin Jr. and his mom Wendy had a quick flight to Mercy Miami Hospital, but once there they found out the helicopter couldn’t land at the hospital so it had to land at a nearby school nearby where the chain had to be cut off the gates so the ambulance could get to the helicopter to transfer him to the hospital via ambulance. Thanks to a generous local pilot, Kevin Sr. and sister Krystal were flown in a private charter and were able to meet Kevin Jr and Wendy at the hospital due the fact the medevac helicopter couldn’t take them all. In the meantime, 6 hours had lapsed. Six long hours of hoping their son would be okay. But in the end, the Piper’s lost their only son, Kevin Piper Jr., on June 28, 2011. He was 16 years old.
The good news is that instead of focusing on their tragedy, the Piper Family and friends decided to be constructive and establish The Kevin Piper Jr. Memorial Fund that is a registered 501c3 non-profit. organization. According to Kevin Piper Sr., “In 2011, we established the Kevin Piper Jr. Memorial Fund to solidify the legacy of our friend, brother, and son. We have made it our mission to establish a local hyperbaric facility, to educate the dive community, and to create a memorial scholarship fund in Kevin Jr.’s honor. If it prevents any family from going through this tragedy or saves lives, that’s the goal.”
In addition to wanting to bring awareness of the need for a hyperbaric chamber in the lower keys, the Memorial Fund also supports dive safety and educational courses as well. May 22-23, 2013, Dr. Bruce Guerdan developed and led a continuing education class called the Initial Evaluation and Management of Scuba Diving Accidents at a local conference center here in town. Other instructors included Joe Deluca, MD, William Deans, Air Methods helicopters and Bob Smith, former Dive Director at FKCC among many other hats he wears. The KPJMF provided tuition reimbursement for 38 people who attended. The reason the class was developed is because many hospital workers who don’t dive themselves aren’t aware of what to do in case of an accident. This course is providing education so that they may be better prepared in the event of an accident such as this.
To find out more about the Kevin Piper Jr. Memorial Fund or to contribute to the fund, please call Kevin Piper Sr. at 305- 304-4063, . You can also make a donation right on this website through the donation tab. Thanks so much for your continued support to bring a hyperbaric chamber to Key West.