A Harford County woman died Sunday while scuba diving with her husband and two children in Key Largo, Fla., according to her family and Florida authorities.
Nancy A. Kreiter, a College of Notre Dame of Maryland professor who specialized in the study of spiders that live near ponds, had long yearned to explore underwater ecosystems, and the trip to Florida was the culmination of that wish, said her daughter, Kara Clissold.
"She grew up on the Mississippi River and she wanted to learn how to scuba dive," said Clissold. "This is something she had always really wanted to do."
The family, including Kreiter's husband, David Clissold, traveled to Florida on Christmas Day and completed their scuba certification at a local diving school a few days later, said Kara Clissold.
Kreiter's first dive without an instructor was Sunday. She spent about 40 minutes diving with her son, Tyler Clissold, 13. During their dive, the focal point of which was a sunken ship covered with coral, the two swam with schools of fish, said her daughter.
As Kreiter was climbing the ladder of the commercial diving boat that had brought the family to the sunken vessel, she collapsed and stopped breathing, said a spokeswoman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Department in Florida. Crew members pulled Kreiter out of the water and administered CPR.
A smaller, faster diving boat was nearby and took Kreiter to shore, where she was examined by paramedics and pronounced dead, said the sheriff's department spokeswoman.
Kreiter's family said they knew of no medical condition that might have contributed to her death. Her daughter said that Kreiter, 50, had received a clean bill of health from her physician before she left for Florida.
An autopsy is pending and Florida law enforcement officials are examining Kreiter's diving equipment.
Kreiter, of Bel Air, had been a professor at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore for 10 years, said her daughter. She received her doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1996.
Last year, she organized a conference of the American Arachnological Society in Baltimore. In an interview with The Sun about the conference, Kreiter said she was afraid of spiders as a child. She overcame her fear, however, when she decided she wanted a job that included outdoor research.
"If you care about an ecosystem that works, you have to care about all its parts, especially spiders," said Kreiter at the time.
Funeral arrangements were pending.