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May 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cause of Death: A Deteriorated Mouthpiece?

from the May, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Diver safety improves when we can learn the specific causes of accidents and deaths. Those don't get publicized in the U.S., but in other countries, especially those using the English system of law, do report on causes and, as you'll see in this case, are very helpful in preventing future mishaps. More specifically, traveling divers are more frequently renting equipment abroad, and while reputable resorts provide well kept gear, problems can happen. In this case, the most unsuspecting piece of gear -- a regulator mouthpiece -- was the culprit.

* * * * *

A coroner's jury in the Cayman Islands returned a verdict of "misadventure" after hearing details surrounding the death of local diver Pamela Langevin in March 2012. Scott Slaybaugh, who is in charge of the diving program at the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, and qualified in diving safety and equipment repair, had been asked to examined the equipment used by Langevin when she went with a buddy on a shore dive from behind the Cracked Conch in West Bay. He said Mrs. Langevin's dive computer showed her having been in the water for 34 minutes, to a maximum of 63 feet, in a combination that was generally safe to prevent decompression illness. However, there was a rapid ascent from 30 feet, which was inconsistent with safe diving practice. The regulator was mechanically functional, although it appeared in need of servicing. The brass filter between the starter and the first stage of the regulator was corroded. Inhaling through the second stage required more effort than usual, Slaybaugh explained, although it was not inherently dangerous for shallow dives....

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