They pushed each other. The way thrill-seekers do.
Scuba enthusiasts Scott Lansinger and Ed Brennick set out to dive deeper than either had ever been. They set their goal at 250 feet, which amateur and expert divers say is about 100 feet beyond reason.
"I heard their plan," said Lansinger's fiancee, Tisa Ozar, "and thought it was insane." Ozar, 21, is a certified diver.
The two men were reported missing Tuesday night in a deep sea canyon off La Jolla Shores. After three searches, lifeguards told relatives and friends Wednesday afternoon that there was little hope the pair would be found alive.
Shortly after Lansinger, 31, of Escondido and Brennick, 30, of Poway were reported missing, their car was found in the Shores parking lot. Inside were two full dive tanks that the pair usually kept on hand for a second session of diving. They were last seen about noon Tuesday, when they set out to beat their personal bests.
Just last weekend, Ozar said, the two had come back from the deepest dive of their lives--197 feet for Scott, 200 for Ed.
"Scott and Ed would just encourage each other to go to the limit," Ozar said. "In anything they did, they were totally competitive."
Friends for years, Lansinger and Brennick were both certified as dive masters from the same school. Brennick, a carpenter, had about six years' diving experience; Lansinger, a computer repairman for IBM, had 12.
During last weekend's dive, friends and relatives said, the two men experienced nitrogen narcosis, a disorienting and, sometimes, euphoric feeling that comes from breathing air at depths below 150 feet. "Rapture of the deep," as it has been described by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, has led divers to mistake down for up, and shallow for deep.
"Two hundred fifty feet is like suicide," said Werner Kurn, a master dive instructor and president of Ocean Enterprises, the diving school where the missing men were certified. "If I hear \o7 anyone \f7 talking like that, I stop the conversation right there. It's like saying, 'I'm going to play Russian roulette. I'm loading the gun . . . ' "
Ozar said she asked Lansinger on Monday if he experienced the "high" of nitrogen narcosis on his last dive.
" 'Yeah, big time,' " Ozar quoted her fiance as saying.
"Don't you think it's stupid to go farther?" she admonished before he set out on the last dive. "He laughed."
"It's cool," was Lansinger's reply.
For Brennick, diving was a natural fix for an adrenaline craving felt since childhood. He was particularly excited about being certified as a dive master just this month, and his enthusiasm for diving seemed heightened in recent days, said his brother, Kevin Brennick.
Also an avid rock climber and parachutist, Brennick knew how to take risks, his brother said: "He didn't like to sit home and watch TV."
But he also knew about people pushing themselves too far, his brother said.
Ed Brennick had recently been on an extensive boat trip to Mexico. A rescue during that trip stuck with him, Kevin Brennick said.
"Ed was on a team looking for a lost diver," Kevin Brennick said. "He was the one who found the guy's body wedged in a rock at 160 feet. . . . That really hit close to home. Ed seemed a lot mellower, a lot more cautious after that."
Kevin Brennick said his brother's fiancee, Patricia Silva, is eight months pregnant, and the family had hoped that the baby would tone down his acts of daring.
Late Wednesday as the families of the two men clung to slim hopes of their survival, Kevin Brennick described a familiar feeling of dread.
"We have always worried about him," he said. "And it was always nice to get that phone call from him saying everything's OK."
Lifeguard Lt. Brant Bass said all Coast Guard and city lifeguard teams in the area were told of the disappearance and will continue to keep on the lookout, though formal rescue efforts have been halted.