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Diver who saved dolphin: 'He swam right up to me'

When a dolphin needed help off the coast of Hawaii, he was determined to let a scuba instructor know.

Keller Laros was leading a group of divers on a tour of the waters off of Kona, Hawaii, on Jan. 11. He often goes on his dives with professional underwater videographers and this night was no exception.

But as Laros, his camerawoman and the rest of the group began their dive, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. 

"All of a sudden I heard a loud squeak, and I turned around, and the dolphin was literally three feet behind me," Laros said. "He swam right up to me."

The bottlenose dolphin slowly swam around Laros, the other divers, and manta rays -- which were what the divers had been gone down to see in the first place -- when they heard the squeak.

What struck Laros immediately about the dolphin was that he was alone.

"We've seen five of those dolphins at this dive site at the night dive before. They're very curious and intelligent animals," he said. "Dolphins are really social animals. In the past we've seen at least two [at this site]."

Laros, who has done more than 10,000 dives, quickly knew something was wrong. When the dolphin circled by him again, Laros noticed he had a fishing line hooked onto his fin.

As camerawoman Martina Wing's underwater video rolled, Laros gestured with his hand for the dolphin to come close.

"I said, 'come here,' and he swam right up to me," he said. "I put my hand out and I was able to get the fishing hook out of his left pectoral fin. The fishing line came from his mouth down through the hook in the left pectoral fin, and then was wrapped all the way around the pectoral fin and it trailed off down the side of the animal."

Laros was able to remove the hook from dolphin's fin, but still needed to get him untangled from the line. As the dolphin patiently floated inches in front of him, Laros took out dive tools that he carries in his suit, including a pair of small scissors.

He was able to clip the line off of the dolphin's mouth and fin, but there was still a little left. The dolphin went up for a breath of air and came back down.

Then Laros and another dive guide removed as much line from under the fin as they could. 

"I guess the dolphin was happy with our work. He swam away and we never saw him again," he said.

During the three minutes that Laros was face-to-face with the dolphin, and the eight minutes in total that he estimated they interacted, he was worried he might scare the animal.

"The dolphin was big -- maybe up to ten feet long," he said. "I was worried when I was removing the fishing line if I hurt him, he could inadvertently be startled and hurt me. I was concerned, but not frightened."

Laros, the founder of the Manta Pacific Research Foundation, has removed many fishing hooks from manta rays and turtles that have swallowed bait, but said he had never helped a dolphin.

"It's a huge thrill to be able to help an animal that clearly knows what's going on," he said. "He made the effort to come to us... The dolphin is really intelligent. It's a relationship. He came to us because he had a problem."

The original eight-minute video of Laros' interaction with the dolphin had gotten over half a million views by Wednesday afternoon. Click below to see Laros' abridged version, with audio.

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