The Third Dive: The Death of Rob Stewart

Environmentalist and filmmaker Rob Stewart died in a tragic diving accident. What went wrong and who is to blame?
Available on CBC Gem

The Third Dive: The Death of Rob Stewart


When Canadian eco-hero Rob Stewart drowned in a diving accident off the coast of the Florida Keys, it was an enormous shock to the world’s environmental movement. At 37, Stewart was in the prime of his life as an activist and filmmaker, and he died in what seemed a senseless diving accident.

Media reports suggested that diving neophyte Stewart was urged to perform a dangerous and ultimately fatal dive by a reckless Svengali-like instructor named Peter Sotis. Some bloggers went so far as to report that Sotis survived the dive by clawing his way onto the boat first — leaving Stewart to drown.

The civil case launched by Stewart’s parents also pointed a finger at the dive operation, Horizon Divers, who had taken Stewart out to the deep wreck. They allegedly had not done their jobs properly and left him to die in the water.

But those stories, though dramatic, don’t hold up to scrutiny. Rob Stewart was no neophyte diver, in fact, he was a diving instructor with some 10,000 dives under his belt. He’d used rebreathers, a specialized system for deep diving before while filming the award-winning documentary Sharkwater. So why would someone with his experience go on a deep dangerous dive for the third time on the same day?

Filmmaker Robert Osborne, himself an experienced technical diver and journalist, launched an 18-month, in-depth investigation, which is detailed in the CBC Docs POV film The Third Dive: The Death of Rob Stewart. Sotis tells his story of what happened that day for the first time. Medical examiner Dr. Thomas Beaver also goes on camera with an exclusive interview sharing his fears that his work had been tampered with from the beginning. Osborne discovered never-seen-before footage from the night of the accident and was leaked a copy of a secret report that debunked much of the fake news that was circulating.

CBC Docs POV’s The Third Dive: The Death of Rob Stewart drills down to discover the real story surrounding Rob Stewart’s death. It’s a disturbing narrative that involves ruined lives, allegations of evidence tampering, a community that closed ranks to avoid bad press and grieving friends and family that may not be ready to hear about Stewart’s calculated risks.