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diver-dons E-zine, Issue #003 - Neutral Buoyancy
April 26, 2017
|Dive safe we owe it to those who love us!
Best Diving Gone BadGood day to you my readers :-)
In this edition I decided to share my story about a dive that went about as bad as bad can be. I rate this as real life horror having been witness to this tragic event. There is a page on my site about it, but this is the first time I have tried to write about it in any detail. So here I go....
Today is April 26/ 2017
November 2/ 2012, was a Friday and a beautiful Autumn day. The sun shone brilliantly in an almost cloudless sky, with very little wind. The tide was middling and on the rise which made for an absolutely perfect day for two men to get together and share an underwater experience, scuba diving in the waters of Nanoose Bay, at a site known as Dolphin Beach. I was one of those guys, and little did we know what this day would bring.
While suiting up in dry suits and arranging gear, I realized I had forgotten my DUI weight harness. I really wanted to take advantage of the perfect day so I dug out all the extra leads I carried as spares and made a weight belt on the spot. (I will add here that the belt I made was one I used to strap my pony bottle setup to my main tank. As I said I really wanted to dive so I elected to drop my pony bottle to save the dive) I had informed my dive buddy of what I was doing to assure him that we had not wasted our time by coming out here today, and he said something to the effect that, “oh well we can always dive another day” myself though would have none of it, we had come to dive and dive we would!
My buddy was on board and through chatting I recall he mentioned that he had over 3000 psi in his steel 100 cubic foot tank. This was as close as we came to doing a buddy check that day. I am embarrassed to say that myself, with almost 200 recorded dives, had become complacent, and felt it was only necessary to check over my own gear to insure proper operation, and that one’s air was fully turned on.
Upon entering the water everything was thumbs up, and we finned out a ways, to where there was about 12 feet of water beneath us. Here we stopped and with a few last words did the thumbs down to begin the dive. Right off I realized I was slightly underweighted as it was a real struggle to get down, but down I did get, and once I broke below the surface I was fine, gently sinking to the bottom. As was one of my habits I took a few moments to ensure my equipment and its operation was good (If you are a diver you know the drill).
Being comfortable and content that all was well I then suddenly realized I was still alone. I began looking around but could not see my buddy (the visibility was decent for our waters probably in the range of 30 feet). Looking up I found my partner and saw him finning at the surface, I did not immediately feel there was anything unusual in this so I waited another half minute or so and once again looked up. This time I sensed more than saw that something was wrong, and quickly went to the surface.
Upon reaching my buddy I was met with someone I did not know. His eyes were huge and he was gasping for air (his reg was not in his mouth) and he was clearly in an advanced state of panic. I immediately removed my own reg and thrust it to him but he was well beyond cognitive thought. I then replaced my own reg, grabbed my Octo and stuck it in his mouth which he immediately spat out. Again I put my Octo back in his mouth and this time it came back minus the mouth piece.
During all of this I was being pulled at, and down, and I also began hyperventilating. I soon realized that I to was becoming panicked. I knew I was putting a lot of effort into breathing and staying afloat while trying to figure out WTF was happening, and then suddenly it occurred to me that I was about to die!
In one conscious moment I made the choice to live and I forcefully pushed away from my friend, and then, in what I will call a surreal world, I watched him sink to the bottom.
After a few seconds I descended to him. I recall turning his tank valve about a half turn and hitting his inflator button on his dry suit. We were soon back at the surface, where I towed him into the shallows. Dragging him from the water onto the rocky beach, I immediately began CPR, the whole time yelling for help. I managed to flag a passing car and asked for a 911 call.
For all my efforts, it was in vain, as were the efforts of a physician who happened to live nearby, who came to our assistance. Shortly after he was pronounced, the RCMP, fireman, ambulance, and lastly, a coroner arrived. After many questions reviewing the details about the accident, (and recording it), a group of fireman carried my buddy’s body up from the beach.
You never, ever, want to see this!
The epilogue to this story is that 10 months later the coroner stated death occurred by drowning, with the possibility of complications arising from either stroke or myocardial infarction, or simply that a large quantity of water had been ingested that could not be overcome.
The outcome was still the same! Shattered families, and friends, co-workers, congregation members…and me…
I shared my experience with probably half a dozen divers, all of which had hundreds, and some even thousands of dives. The general consensus was 1 of 2 scenarios. 1, my buddy likely turned on his air, checked his psi, turned the air off and then forgot to turn it on again. Or 2, he only turned it on about a half turn which would give you a correct pressure reading but totally insufficient volume.
Of course there is also the chance that he simply had a medical emergency, I for one hope that was it, but obviously we will never know. I know, as you must, that diving is an inherently dangerous sport. That day changed the world for many people who loved and respected that man dearly. Personally I still sometimes struggle with guilt, even after 4 and ½ years.
Bottom line, DO YOUR BUDDY CHECKS!!!
Trust me, you never ever want to second guess yourself!
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