Local man recuperating after dive accident

On July 1, reports surfaced saying Charles Randall Grimes had a dive accident in the waters off Marathon. It took a couple of seconds for the name to register. Chase? Are they talking about Chase Grimes? 

The Middle Keys native, 34, is a well-loved friend (some would say “personality”) in Marathon. And the one thing everyone can agree on is that he’s a waterman in the best sense of the word — more comfortable on top of the sea or underwater than he is on land. 

The Keys Weekly reached out to Chase for a recounting of what happened, and to his friends, who have wild and funny stories to tell. There are various fundraising efforts underway (see sidebar) with the simple aim of getting Chase back to the Keys and back on his feet. Godspeed, Chase.

In his own words

“Last Tuesday, after surfacing from a depth I dive often, with nothing out of the ordinary happening, I climbed back on the boat and noticed my fingertips felt numb. I immediately stopped making sense to Rachel (Bowman) and Peter (Angelotti), then quickly lost the ability to speak at all or move. 

“Peter threw the boat toward shore while Rachel called the 9-1-1 and the Coast Guard. The EMT’s met us at Capt. Hook’s Marina and Dive Center.

“(Numbness, ‘drunken’ behavior, slurred speech, and lack of motor control are all signs of Decompression Sickness (DCS). Type 1 DCS is usually referred to as the ‘bends’ and involves pain in the joints. Type 2 DCS involves the neurological symptoms — it was a relief someone on the boat recognized it as quickly as Peter and Rachel.) 

“During the ride in, I was so thirsty and uncomfortable in the position I was sitting but couldn’t ask for water or move my body. When we got to the dock I remember being laid on the dock and  EMT Chris Cameron grabbing me and saying, “Chase, it’s Chris, bro. You’re gonna be ok buddy.” (Thanks, Marathon Fire Rescue.) In the Trauma Star helicopter, I was put on full oxygen — hi, Heidi! — which had an almost immediate effect to where I could move. I looked out the window and we were flying so low I could see the Channel 5 Bridge, then the tall Miami buildings. That’s when I knew I wasn’t going to Mariners Hospital.  

“Apparently Mercy Hospital’s hyperbaric chambers are considered the ‘Hilton’ and my doctor is well known across the Caribbean for dive medicine expertise.

“At Mercy, after my first session in the chamber, something moved and I lost feeling from my ribcage down through my feet. While being rolled to my room, I could hear my sister Kristen Livengood down a hallway yelling. “My brother almost died! You are either going to let me see my brother, a supervisor, or a sheriff’s officer!” And for a brief moment it felt a little like home, almost like I was at Overseas Lounge. By that time I got to my room, my sister made it there without throat-punching anyone. A little while longer, and I went off for an MRI, which revealed arthritis in my spine where a bubble is, or was, likely trapped causing some damage. 

“I am beginning to regain strength in my lower limbs with physical therapy and will be continuing sessions in the hyperbaric chamber for at least another week. The doctor likes to say ‘optimistic but concerned’ a lot.  

“I hope to get out soon with the ability to walk up to everyone and give them a hug (social distance hug). The doctor has been very stern not to scuba dive any more, so I’ll be freediving for my groupers from now on. 

“I am completely overwhelmed by the support of my family, friends and the community. My spirits have been lifted high by all the wishes, prayers, and thoughts from those hoping and helping for my speedy recovery. Thank you all so much, I am honestly truly blessed.”

When news of Chase’s dive injury made the rounds on the Coconut Telegraph, Marathon and his friends swung into action. 

• Over the 4th of July Weekend, Causeway Pizza donated a portion of its proceeds to Chase’s care. On July 6, all tips from Brutus Seafood — and matched by the Upper Keys’ Mike Forster — were dedicated to his care and recovery.  

• On Friday, July 10, servers from the Overseas Lounge have declared it to be the first annual Chase Grimes Day. All tips go to Chase.

• On Friday, July 24, there will be a huge raffle, also at Overseas. The top item is a 5-day, 4-night stay at a beautiful home in the Bahamas. Tickets cost $100, and only 50 will be sold. 

• Starting next week, locals can buy T-shirts for $30 each featuring Chase’s face, donated by Promotions Guy, and 100% of the proceeds benefit Chase. The shirts will be on sale at Overseas Lounge.

• Donations for Chase can also be dropped off at any Keys Federal Credit Union branch in an envelope marked “Chase Grimes Benefit.”

Chase was one of my first friends when I moved here and he’s the reason I’ve met more than half of the people that I’ve stayed friends with throughout these years. I feel like he is the fisherman’s version of a socialite. 

— Elise Mucha

Chase is my best friend and my life wouldn’t be the same without him. Like, once he made me laugh so hard in the restaurant I started crying and people thought he just broke up with me. Another time he gave his phone to a girl so he could use mine to call her and ask her out, but she took it to Key West for a week and then returned it on her way home.

— Todd Spano

My friend Chase: the fish whisperer, the real life Aquaman. Many share the belief he is part fish, spending most of his life on or in the water. He’s often seen with some sort of liquid in his hands while visiting land. He has a passion for fishing and diving, but what I think he enjoys most is sharing his adventures with others. He would rather teach/watch someone else shoot/catch the big fish. The guy is a legend.

— Justin Knowlton

Chase is the sweetest, most caring human I have ever met. He once let a family of raccoons live in his attic rent-free for months. He didn’t evict them until one fell through his ceiling onto his bed where he had just woken up. If he can survive flying raccoons, overcoming this will be a breeze.

— Rachel Volls

I consider Chase to be the unofficial mayor of the Middle Keys.

— Andy Sharf

He is a fun-loving, kind-hearted, ocean-adoring, diving and fishing-obsessed, thrill-seeking, witty, and loyal friend.

— Nicole Abbott Farmer 

Chase is one of the best guys I know! He’s always been there to lend a helping hand when needed! His favorite color is magenta!

— “Cheddar” Geitz 

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