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January 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diver Loses Fingers on the Dive Ladder

from the January, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If youve dived for a number of years, youre probably very familiar with dive boat ladders swinging freely in the water. There may have been a time when you got your BCD, mask or even your finger stuck or squeezed underneath the ladder when the swells came up. But consider yourself lucky if you just felt a pinch. Ron Lussier (Sausalito, CA) told us about his June trip to Fijis Beqa Lagoon Resort, where Linda Rollins, a woman in his dive group, had severe damage done to her fingers by a freeswinging boat ladder.

We were doing a shark-feed dive in Beqa Lagoon, taking a giant stride off the back or rolling off the sides to enter the water, then climbing one of the two free-swinging ladders back onboard. At the end of the second dive, a two-foot swell had developed. Because everyone came up at once, there were a dozen divers floating off the back, surrounded by lampreys, waiting to board. When it was Lindas turn, she grabbed the ladder from the back just as the boats stern rode up on a swell. The ladder swung down hard against the aluminum stern plate and severed two of Lindas fingers. A third finger was hanging by a flap of skin.

Linda, to her credit, didnt panic, aside from saying an understandable expletive. The crew got her back on board, laid her down, and applied pressure to the wounded fingers. (The tips werent recoverable, thanks to the lampreys.) Luckily for Linda, another diver on board was a medical doctor who stabilized her hand. The boat headed to Pacific Harbor, where a van was waiting to take Linda to the nearest hospital, a two-hour drive.

Beqa Lagoon Resort has a modified version of the story, which they filed in an incident report to PADI. The sea was rough [as] she stood on the ladder and passed her digital camera to the captain and deckhand. They were on the swim platform helping divers out of the water at the same time a wave hit the boat. She tried to hold onto the ladder rails but instead held the ladder run. When this hit the back of the dive platform, her fingers were severed After meeting with the doctors she went to surgery. She returned to the resort on Saturday afternoon and left with the group on Sunday. After the incident, the hotel tied and locked down all of their dive boat ladders.

When Undercurrent contacted Linda Rollins in Oakland, CA, her e-mail reply was, I would be very happy to speak with you about this incident and what should be done about swinging dive ladders. However, I am not at liberty to speak about this at the present time. Sounds to us like a lawsuit may be in the works.

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