RASCON, Mark (c. 1965-2012), 47, drowned while SCUBA diving at Santa Catalina Island on July 27, 2012.
In the News~
October 26, 2014 [San Jose Mercury]: “2012 scuba death was no simple accident. Ever since his youth in San Jose, Ernest "Mark" Rascon had been a trusting guy. He was a soft-spoken, big man — 6-foot-2 — who wanted to think the best of other people. Unfortunately, he trusted a man who didn't reveal that he had a criminal past. It cost Rascon his life. You could say that Rascon was caught in the flotsam of America's economic crisis. Once the owner of his own granite and stone company in La Quinta, he was forced to sell during the recession and move his family to Long Beach, near his wife's family and the ocean he loved so much. More accurately, the 47-year-old Rascon was caught literally in the kelp off Catalina Island on July 27, 2012. As a diver on a boat piloted by his employer, Craig Lightner, Mark died using unfamiliar and unsafe scuba equipment, searching for the blue-banded Goby fish. Last Monday, more than two years after the incident, Lightner was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Rascon's death. The district attorney's office and Los Angeles County sheriff's department assembled a body of evidence to show it was no simple accident. When he had a chance to help Rascon out, authorities said, Lightner called the Coast Guard and stayed put. When Baywatch arrived, the rescuers had to summon him three times before he got off his cellphone. And tellingly, Rascon's family says Lightner never told Mark that it was illegal to fish those waters around Catalina Island for the blue-banded Goby, a brightly-colored fish popular in aquariums. Criminal omissions. "There were a lot of things that Craig Lightner didn't do that led to Mark's death," says the man who investigated the case, LA County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Carver. "He kind of set Mark up for failure." Born at San Jose Hospital on February, 24, 1965, the second child of Ernest and Sandy Rascon, Mark Rascon had deep roots in San Jose. His dad was an officer for the California Highway Patrol — Highway 17 over the hill was his beat — and his mother worked in the Campbell and San Jose Unified school districts. From early on, Rascon loved water sports and fishing. His mother remembers that when he was 5, he was given a fishing pole during a family vacation at Lake Shasta. While the other kids water-skied, something Mark liked too, the boy stayed for hours, trying to catch fish. Rascon attended Santa Teresa High School, where he played on the water polo team and met his first wife. A divorced father at the age of 19, he had custody of the first of what were ultimately seven kids to support -- four of his own and three from his third wife, Jill. The couple had twins who are now 10. Dedicated father. "He was an extremely loving, dedicated family man," said his mother, Sandy, who now lives with her husband in Auburn. "He was involved with them as much he could be and still working so many hours." Several months before he died, Rascon met an engaging man on a fishing trip in Mexico, Craig Lightner, who invited him to go fishing for the Goby at $3.50 per fish. Rascon's family said he did not know that Lightner had pleaded guilty to smuggling tropical fish into the U.S. six years before. That wasn't all: The kind of airline they used was more fitted for the clear waters of Florida than the kelp-infested sea off Catalina Island. His family believes that Rascon died of an embolism as he tried to surface after kelp became entangled in his breathing apparatus. A changing story. Detective Carver says that Lightner's story of what happened changed from interview to interview. Maybe most significantly, the investigation showed that a previous employee had warned Lightner that his equipment and failure to give proper training would kill someone someday. The sad story had more than one prelude: When Lightner was convicted in 2006 of smuggling Mexican immigrants and rare angel fish into the United States, he was penitent. "I'm sorry for my actions that have brought me to this court," Lightner said at the time. "This situation has truly taught me a lesson, and I will never commit a crime again." Mark Rascon paid the price when Craig Lightner didn't keep his word.”
October 21, 2013 [LAT]: “A San Pedro man has been sentenced to four years in prison for endangering a diver who died last year when his breathing equipment got tangled in kelp off Catalina Island. Craig Lightner was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 47-year-old Mark Rascon, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The men had been trying to illegally catch the blue-banded Goby fish while diving on July 27, 2013 . They were using air hoses and "unsafe" breathing regulators, but Lightner didn't teach Rascon how to properly use the equipment, prosecutor Carol Rose said in a statement. And when Rascon's breathing equipment became tangled in kelp, Lightner called the U.S. Coast Guard to report a missing diver instead of rendering aid, Rose said. Rescuers found Rascon's body 80 feet down. Coroner's officials determined Rascon suffered an embolism during the dive, which led to his drowning, according the district attorney's office.”