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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Autopsy Finds Ventura College Diving Student Drowned

November 17, 1998|NICK GREEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANACAPA ISLAND — An autopsy conducted Monday showed that a 47-year-old scuba student who died while taking the final exam of a Ventura College diving class drowned, authorities said.

Julia Asaoka, of Ventura, drowned Saturday while taking her first open-ocean dive off Anacapa Island, said Craig Stevens, senior deputy coroner with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office.

Asaoka, a Santa Paula librarian and mother of a young son, had just entered the water with a classmate when the incident occurred.

"She had put the regulator in her mouth and both of them had just gone under the water when she went limp," Stevens said. "We're having all of her dive equipment tested at this point. We're also running a full toxicology screen to see if there's anything that may have contributed [to her death]."

The college plans to review its diving procedures in the wake of Asaoka's death, said President Larry Calderon.

Asaoka's death was the first for a beginning diver in the 26 years of the college program, said Cheryl Holt, aquatics coordinator. An advanced diver died of a heart attack 18 years ago, she said.

Asaoka had shown proficiency in scuba diving during the 90-hour course, Holt said. She had taken part in a snorkel dive in Carpinteria and a scuba dive off Refugio State Beach earlier in the course.

"She performed all the skills, she had passed all the levels required to go out on the boat," Holt said. "She was very serious and very intent on learning to scuba dive."

The college has made crisis counselors available to discuss the accident with other students in the class, officials said.

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