Below is Papa's story, as told by his cousin, Amanda Balius:
Ruben "Papa" Perez
June 6, 1987-July 9, 2016
Play in the Sun, Love by the Moon
Ruben Anthony Perez, aka Papa, was a fish out of water. Since he was 9 months old he was always in the water whether swimming or fishing. He was an amazing human being, a selfless soul who loved to bring out the happiness in others. He lived his life humble and kind and always left an unforgettable impression unique laugh and tone of voice. On July 9th 2016 just ten days from marrying the love of his life Lindsey, Papa had a fatal diving accident which was the result of shallow water blackout. Our entire family is devastated and we continue to ask ourselves how this could of happened when papa was such a skilled swimmer/diver/spearman. After researching and watching videos, even the most skilled swimmer/diver/spearman can experience and ultimately die from what took our Papa. Like any other weekend, papa along with two other divers went spear fishing off of Elliot Key in Biscayne, Florida. Papa and a friend dove in together that morning while his father in law Mark stayed above the surface on the boat on July 9th. The two divers returned to the surface together, but there was a hogfish Papa just couldn't let get away and told Mark he'd be right back. That was the last Mark and his friend saw and heard from papa. Although we are grateful for all the help from the Coast guard and FWC who searched for Papa, Mark was the one that ultimately never gave up and finally found him. Without Mark, we wouldn't have our boy back and give him the proper services he deserved. It is so important that divers/spearman remember to stay in a group even if they want to go for one last dive. Had it not been for that last hogfish, maybe Papa would still be here with us today. No family should have to lay their loved ones to rest, especially so young with so much life still yet to live.
Ruben "papa" Perez is survived by his amazing mother Maggie, father Ruben, sister Madelin, brother Marcus, fiancé Lindsey and family and friends. We love you forever and always and will miss you until then we will meet you at the moon.
Please be safe, educate yourselves about swb, and never go back in alone. God bless you all and please pray for our family as well as the many others who have suffered such loss.
Thank you, Amanda Balius (cousin of Papa)