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Malaysia searches for 3 Europeans lost on dive; 1 rescued

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities rescued a Norwegian dive instructor and were searching Thursday for three other Europeans, including two teenagers, who disappeared while diving off a southern island.

Kristine Grodem, a 35-year-old registered diving instructor, was rescued by a tugboat early Thursday about 22 nautical miles (40 kilometers) from the dive site and was airlifted to a hospital, according to Johor state maritime authorities.

The missing divers are Alexia Alexandra Molina, 18, of France; Adrian Peter Chesters, 46, of Britain; and his Dutch son, Nathen Renze Chesters, 14.

They were diving together Wednesday afternoon in water about 15 meters (50 feet) deep at an island off the town of Mersing in southern Johor state.

First Admiral Nurul Hizam Zakaria, Johor director of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said Grodem was found safe with full diving gear and was in stable condition without any serious injuries.

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He said she was providing dive training for the other three, who were seeking to obtain advanced diving licenses, and that a report was made after the group did not surface about an hour after their dive.

The agency began a search Wednesday afternoon before suspending it for the night due to poor visibility. The search resumed early Thursday with two planes, 18 boats and about 90 personnel, including rescue divers. The operation was halted again for the night and is set to resume early Friday.

District police chief Cyril Edward Nuing said Grodem told investigators that the group surfaced after about 40 minutes and began a second dive. He said they surfaced again soon because of rough water conditions, and Grodem tried to get the boat skipper’s attention but couldn’t be heard as they drifted away. She was then separated from the others due to the strong current, she said.

“Based on her account, the three others managed to surface. With their equipment, their full gear and their experience, we believe there is a strong chance of finding them alive,” he said.

Johor police chief Kamarul Zaman Mamat said the boat skipper tested positive for drugs and has been detained for further investigation.

“We will investigate in terms of their diving equipment, the dive center and so on. A forensic team will be arriving. If there is misconduct and so on, we will investigate as well,” he was quoted as saying by the national Bernama news agency.

Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar ordered a suspension of all diving activities off Mersing pending an investigation into the incident. There are five islands off the town that are popular dive spots for local residents and tourists.

“We cannot allow diving to continue if safety measures are compromised,” he said in a statement. Diving rules and regulations must also be reviewed and made public before the sport is allowed to resume, he said.

Malaysia’s borders reopened to foreigners on April 1 after being closed for more than two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. The immigration department said more than 55,000 foreigners entered Malaysia in the first four days after the reopening.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Alex Jones was questioned Wednesday by lawyers for families of Sandy Hook victims in Connecticut, where a judge had ordered the Infowars host to face mounting fines until he appeared for a deposition.

Relatives of some of the 20 children and six educators killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, massacre sued Jones for defamation after he said the shooting never happened. A judge found Jones liable for damages and a trial on how much he should pay the families is set for August.

Jones, who lives in Texas, had defied a judge’s order to appear for a deposition in the case, saying he was too ill. But Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis said there wasn’t enough evidence that Jones was too sick to attend and ordered him to come to Connecticut for questioning and pay escalating daily fines until he did so. Jones paid $25,000 in fines for Friday and $50,000 in fines for Monday, according to court records.

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Jones said in a video on the Infowars website that the deposition began Tuesday and was to continue Wednesday. He said in the video that the families’ lawyers began the deposition by “demonizing” him for his questioning official versions of events.

“It’s just totally insane to sit there and watch this happen and to watch them lick their lips and lick their chops and think we’re going to finally shut Alex Jones down,” Jones said. “These people want to put us in prison for our speech.”

Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, said tempers flared at times during the deposition on Tuesday, and much of the questioning was not related to the school shooting.

“I had the impression watching the attack on Mr. Jones that this trial will be about something far greater than what happened at Sandy Hook,” Pattis said on the video. “The trial’s going to be about ordinary people’s ability to say I’m not buying it, I want to raise questions, I want to draw my own conclusions.”

The families’ lawyer, Christopher Mattei, said Jones has declared his “entire deposition confidential even while he and his attorney conduct media interviews discussing the details.”

“Accordingly, we are unable to comment further at this time,” Mattei said.

The deposition was held at the Bridgeport office of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. After it ended Wednesday, Pattis filed a court document asking Bellis to return to Jones the $75,000 in fees he paid, which the judge said he could request only after sitting for questioning. Bellis did not immediately rule.

Jones missed the originally scheduled deposition in the case on March 23 and 24 in Austin, Texas. He cited a health issue including vertigo that his doctors initially thought was a serious heart problem but turned out to be a sinus infection.

The plaintiffs have said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on his website show. Jones has since conceded the shooting did happen.

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