MIDLAND -"A true pioneer and a real stalwart supporter of scuba diving." Those are the words of Mark Hannifin, Co-Owner of Family Scuba Center in Midland. He used those words when talking about 77-year-old Richard Stovall who may still be missing somewhere in Lake O.H. Ivie in Concho County.
Stovall and Hannifin may be business rivals but Hannifin still considers Stovall a mentor and a great man.
"He actually gave me my first scuba lessons back in 1972," Hannifin said. "He really kept scuba diving going and started it in the Permian Basin. He was actually teaching for over 50 years."
Ask around anywhere else in Midland, including COM Aquatics, and they'll tell you how Stovall played a role in their lives.
"When we first built this pool out here, I approached Stovall and if you're a Midlander, you know Stovall's," COM Aquatics Executive Director, Brad Swendig, said. "They've been around here for a long time, trained thousands of people, I'm sure. They were one of the top scuba stores in the country at one time and so they were a big part of Midland for a long time."
Questions still linger.
What happened to Stovall that made him go missing?
Some aquatic business owners point out that a lot of mistakes can happen while diving.
"Sometimes those mistakes, when you're underwater, obviously very dangerous," Swendig said. "We can just hope that maybe he got separated and he's somewhere on the surface, somewhere."
Others believe diving's dangers aren't to blame, that perhaps this mystery has a more natural cause.
"We lose roughly five scuba divers per year out of all the millions of scuba divers throughout the world and all the millions upon millions of dives they make," Hannifin said. "You can be driving down the highway in a car, have a heart attack and it's a rollover accident. Well, it wasn't until you had a heart attack."
Still, no matter what, Midlanders are holding onto hope that Stovall will resurface, sending their thoughts and prayers to his family.
"They know where he's at and can't get him back," Hannifin said. "That's the equivalent of somebody lost in space."