Local diver sucked into underwater pipe shares ordeal

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WSVN) — A scuba diver said he’s lucky to be alive, nearly eight months after getting sucked into a power plant’s underwater pipe near Port St. Lucie.

South Florida native Christopher Le Cun said he’s always loved the water, and he takes his family out on their boat any chance they get. "Basically my whole life, you know? Fishing, scuba diving," he said.

Last summer was no different — or so they thought.

On July 12, Le Cun and his family were boating off Hutchinson Island when they came across a yellow buoy. Underneath the marker was the silhouette of a massive structure.

Le Cun said he threw on his scuba gear and dove into the water to take a closer look. "I swam right up to this big structure. It looks like a building underwater," he said. "All of a sudden I felt a little bit of current, and all of a sudden it got a little quicker. I said, ‘This ain’t right. This ain’t right.’"

Robert Blake, a friend of Le Cun, said he just vanished. "He just — he got sucked in like a wet noodle. He was just gone," he said.

Le Cun unknowingly got sucked into a pipe from a nuclear power plant. "It kind of felt like I got sucked over a waterfall, and this instantly complete darkness," he said. "I was getting tumbled around and around. I’m trying to hang on to my mask and my regulator. I finally get a hold of my light. I’m trying to look around. As far as you can see, just black."

The quarter-mile pipe is used to suck 500,000 gallons of water per minute to cool the plant’s nuclear reactors. "It’s about a 4-and-a-half to 5-minute ride. You get to do a lot of thinking. I knew something was drawing all this water," said Le Cun, visibly shaken. "All I could think about was these horror movies, you know? This big turbine coming and I’m coming for it, you know? It’s going to chop me up and kill me, and I just contemplated, do I pull the regulator out of my mouth and just die?"

Up above the water, Le Cun’s wife was fearing the worst. "’I’ve got to get a hold of the power plant.’ Then the turbines came to my mind, and then I just lost it," said Brittany Le Cun.

Meanwhile, her husband seemed to finally find a way out. "All of a sudden, it looks like a match out in the distance, just the littlest bit of light you’ve ever seen," " he said. "All of a sudden, poof. Just daylight. Fish everywhere, crystal-clear water, the sun is shining. I’m like, ‘Is this heaven?’"

Le Cun ultimately pulled himself out of one of the plant’s reservoirs and used an employee’s phone to call his wife. "She just goes, ‘Hello?’ And I said, ‘I’m alive.’ She just — she couldn’t believe it," he said.

Le Cun has filed a lawsuit against Florida Power and Light. He said the pipe was not marked with a warning sign.

Meanwhile, an FPL spokesperson said the buoy has always read, "Stay back 100 feet."