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January 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Husband Sues PADI for Wife’s Death from Carbon Monoxide

from the January, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In March 2012, Ronda Cross, on vacation in Baja California from Calgary, Alberta, went diving off Cabo San Lucas with her cousin, Roxanne Amundson, and divemaster Jorge Duchateau. When Amundson and Duchateau surfaced from 75 feet, Cross, 41, was not with them. Her body was soon found floating in the water nearby and pulled out by the crew of another boat. Her husband, Colin, believed that she was overcome by carbon monoxide in her tank, fell asleep and drowned. Now, almost two years later, he has decided to sue PADI, alleging that the training agency inadequately teaches divers to protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"PADI has roughly a page and a half that deals with the quality of air in the tank that you're using to dive," Joshua Hale, Cross's San Diego-based lawyer, told CBC News. "The page and a half examines bad air, it examines what to do in the case of bad air. It's PADI's recommendation to test your tank by tasting it." But Hale said the problem with that is carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless. "It does say that there's a problem with carbon monoxide, PADI did not leave that out. But it doesn't say how to prevent being injured by it, how to prevent a death by it. PADI hasn't informed the people they're training how to do anything to prevent any harm."

There are other parties mentioned in the suit, including Sunshine Dive and Charter, the company that filled Cross's tanks in Mexico. According to court documents, the charter "held itself out to be PADI-certified as to diving tank filling and maintenance." In an email to CBC News, PADI declined comment because the case is before the courts. According to documents filed in a California court, the organization is denying all of the allegations in Cross's suit.

In PADI's Open Water Diver Manual, there is a section on bad air."Contaminated air generally results from a problem with the compressor or its filtering system, and as a result often tastes and smells bad -- but it can also be odorless and tasteless," reads the manual. Divers are instructed to buy air only from professional dive stores and to make sure the proper compressor is used when filling the tank.

Still, Hale believes PADI needs to go further. "The training that says first of all, this is a problem. Second, this is how you minimize or mitigate that problem. Third, there's a cost, but fourth -- you've now been trained in this -- it's now your responsibility."

Cross says he had to file the lawsuit because when he tried to contact PADI after his wife's death, he wasn't getting a response. Hale says this isn't about money, but that they are hoping to bring about change. "In negotiations, he's asked for an ability to try and prevent other deaths, and I think that goes towards exactly what you're asking. Is this a means to pump somebody for money? I don't think so."

-- Nadia Stewart, CBC News

Note from Ben: We first wrote about Ronda Cross's death in connection to a story in our July 2012 issue, titled "Why CO Poisoning Risk is Higher Than You Think." The writer, a diving physician and air-fill consultant for government and businesses, explains why dive shops, dive agencies and divers themselves need to share in the responsibility of air fills and carbon monoxide testing. In light of Cross's lawsuit, it's a timely read again. Pull it up for a read at www.undercurrent.org/members/UCnow/dive_magazine/2012/PoisoningRisk201207.html

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