Former Spicer, Minn., man dies in scuba diving accident
SPICER — Dr. Paul Latham II, of Lee, N.H., and formerly of Spicer, died earlier this month in a scuba-diving accident in Bermuda.
Latham, 55, is the son of Allen and Martha Latham, who own the historic Spicer Castle Bed and Breakfast on Green Lake near Spicer.
According to an obituary provided by the family, Latham, an experienced scuba diver, was photographing the habitat and behavior of an invasive fish in 200-foot deep water off the coast of Bermuda on Jan. 13 when he experienced trouble as he ascended to the surface.
According to Mary Swanson of Spicer, who is Latham’s sister, Latham was ascending with two diving partners when a problem occurred at the 100-foot mark where they were supposed to stop as part of a safety routine.
“Something at that point went wrong and it brought my brother up at a very rapid pace,” Swanson said.
The other divers were unsuccessful in their attempts to bring Latham back down far enough for him to recover, Swanson said.
Latham was taken to a hospital in Bermuda where he died.
The two other divers were treated for injuries. One was released from the hospital a week after the incident.
An investigation is ongoing, Swanson said.
With more than 5,000 dives, Swanson said her brother was “quite experienced and cautious” and the accident was “an unfortunate event.”
In a story published in the Bermuda Sun newspaper Latham’s wife, Colleen Latham, said her family was at a loss as to what had happened to the devoted father of two, who had more than 34 years of experience diving across the world.
“Paul enjoyed every moment of his life and he always made sure other people enjoyed it too. He understood how precious every experience was and how important a sense of present was,” said Colleen Latham in the Bermuda Sun story.
The family had vacationed in Bermuda since 1985.
“Paul thought that the oceans and the lakes were some of the most extraordinary places to experience,” she said.
Latham graduated from New London-Spicer High School in 1976.
Swanson said Latham credited his teachers at Ridgewater Community College for influencing his further education and career.
Latham had been living in Lee, N.H., where he was an engineer, business owner, lecturer and professor at the University of New Hampshire.
He is credited with at least 35 patents and for making developments to analog system designs and adaptive digital systems and advanced control technology, according to family information.
“Paul was extraordinarily intelligent and had an engineer’s mind. He was always trying to invent new things so our children grew up doing the most unusual things,” said Colleen Latham in the Bermuda Sun story.
“His career was his lifeblood. He wanted so much to accomplish and find out about how electricity and engineering were changing the world,” she said.
Swanson said she hopes others will continue to carry on with the work her brother was doing.
In an interview Wednesday, Allen Latham said his son had dyslexia but had trained his brain to learn differently.
“He had a unique ability to use his brain with more flexibility than most people do. It was an advantage to him in his education and work,” he said. “He loved learning things that were new.”
“He was someone that loved life,” said Swanson. “He was just a very kind and gentle man.”
Allen Latham said his son loved scuba diving because he could “explore that new part of the world that most people aren’t acquainted with.”
He said Paul made some of his first dives in Green Lake in front of the Spicer Castle.
His last dive in Bermuda was being made to study invasive species in waters there.
Latham said it’s fitting that memorials in honor of his son will be dedicated to purchase decontamination equipment to help protect Green Lake from zebra mussels.
Donations can be sent to : Allen Latham/Zebra mussels, P.O. Box 306, Spicer, MN 56288.
Latham leaves behind his wife, parents, children – Allen Latham III and Emily Latham, and sister Mary (and Michael) Swanson of Spicer and other relatives.
A funeral service will be held Saturday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Willmar.
Simon Jones from the Bermuda Sun contributed to this article.