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May 1997 Vol. 12, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why British Divers Die

Accident reports from the other side

from the May, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Unlike American certification agencies, the British SubAqua Club doesn't avoid reporting on injured and dead divers to make diving seem as safe as stamp collecting. In fact, they make their reports public so divers can learn from errors to become safer divers.

From their 1996 report we wish to cite a few injury cases so we all can learn from the unfortunate few who erred and got hurt.

Too often at the end of a long dive someone has to return to the bottom to free the anchor. This British instructor went to 55 feet, but had 12 minutes of stops as he surfaced with his students. He then reentered the water to 45 feet to free the anchor, which had gotten stuck. He exerted himself, surfaced rapidly and out of breath, with bends resulting. Recompression treatment resolved the problem.

While this case seems almost like one noted urban myth, it indeed happened. During an ascent from a wreck, a diver was hooked by a fisherman and dragged toward the surface. Every so often the fisherman let the line go slack and the diver sank again. The diver s buddy finally managed to cut him free, but he made a rapid ascent to the surface.

One nightmare ascent involved two wreck divers. One tied a line to a wreck and released the buoy in preparation for their ascent. The line did not run freely, so they detached it from the wreck, but it caught one diver's thumb and pulled him rapidly upward as the buoy rose. The divers were attached to each other by a buddy line, so both were carried to the surface, shooting past a five-minute required stop.

American reports never talk about out-of-water injuries, but they occur. And they ain't fun. While getting out of his gear, this Brit bloke had a clip on his BC break, causing the whole rig, tank included, to drop to the earth. His big toe was in the way and the tank fractured it.

Two fully dressed divers were walking toward the entry point for a dive. Their route down some steps was blocked by a group of school children. In trying to negotiate past them, one diver fell and broke his leg.

Finally, there were two blokes who drifted off their anchor line, got to the surface, and had no way to attract attention. A simple safety sausage would have gotten attention, but they drifted nearly three miles out to sea where, by sheer luck, they were spotted by another dive boat.

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