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March 2001 Vol. 16, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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When a Caribbean Certification Shouldn’t Even Count

from the March, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

While completing a certification class in the Caribbean makes learning to dive easy, it does not mean one is trained to dive everywhere. Learning in clear, calm, warm water, does little to make a diver ready to brave the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific or Great Lakes. Here is a case in point:

Last year, a 19-year-old female diver completed her PADI classwork in Ontario and her check out divers in the Caribbean. In January, she took her first cold-water dive ever, joining a Victoria, British Columbia dive operation .

Diving in a wetsuit, she was wearing 40 lbs. of lead. She was buddying with her best friend, who was at the same level of experience. Upon free descent toward a planned level of 50 feet, she lost control almost immediately, plummeting to 200 feet, with her best friend grasping her hand the entire way.

Other divers in the water saw them sinking, and an experienced diver followed their bubbles down. When they plummeted past 110 feet, he surfaced to get help. The buddy was unable to lift the diver, who seemed unconscious by that time, off the bottom. She then surfaced to get help.

At 200 feet, the diver was too deep for the recreational divers who arrived from nearby dive boats to attempt a rescue. Currents prevented expert attempts at recovery later that afternoon, and she remained lost at sea .

Too much weight? Panic? Over confidence because she now carries a PADI card certifying her as on open-water diver? An unskilled buddy? A cumbersome wet suit? Poor shop supervision? No self-rescue skills? Failure to drop a weight belt? Narcosis? There is no end to the factors that contributed to this tragic death.

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