David Bright, a leading researcher into underwater exploration and shipwrecks, died after diving to the site of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket where he was working in preparation for the wreck's 50th anniversary. He was 49.
Mr. Bright, of Flemington, N.J., resurfaced from a dive late Saturday with decompression sickness and went into cardiac arrest, according to the Coast Guard. He was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital a short time later.
His wife of 23 years, Elaine Bright, said the circumstances that led to his death were not immediately clear and the family was awaiting an autopsy report.
Mr. Bright had explored the Titanic, Andrea Doria, and other shipwrecks many times -- 120 times for the Andrea Doria alone.
The Andrea Doria was headed from Italy to New York when it collided with the Swedish ship Stockholm on July 25, 1956, killing about 50 people. The Italian luxury liner lies in 200 feet of water, about 50 miles southeast of Nantucket.
Because of its depth, it is considered the Mount Everest of scuba diving.
Mr. Bright's research into the Titanic, Andrea Doria, and other sites has been part of dozens of documentaries, and he lectured often on ship exploration.
He had an extensive personal collection of artifacts, and established the Andrea Doria Museum Project -- based at the Nantucket Lifesaving Museum -- which loans artifacts to museums. He owned two Andrea Doria life boats, including one on his property in New Jersey, his wife said. He was the founder of the Andrea Doria Survivor Reunions Committee.
``His passion has been growing for a little over 30 years, all kinds of shipwrecks and getting to know them," Elaine Bright said.
``It's very traumatizing to his entire family but we know that he's happy. It's a very sad thing, but water, scuba diving was what he wanted to do," she said.
Mr. Bright started the Nautical Research Group about four years ago after his retirement from
He also spent two years working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the exploration of the wreck of the Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor.
Captain Robert Meurn, a fellow Andrea Doria researcher, had been slated to speak about the ship with Mr. Bright this month.
``He followed his passion, and he was trying to solve the mystery of why she did sink," Meurn said from his home in Harbor Beach, Mich.
Elaine Bright said memorial services were planned for Flemington, N.J., and in his hometown near Niagara Falls, N.Y. He also leaves his mother, two brothers, and three children: Michelle, 21; Matthew, 19; and Heather 18.